There is need for a more uniform, humane approach by NIS and staff to contributors, claimants

Dear Editor,

I read with sadness, but not surprise, Mr. Rampaul Chetaru’s letter in your yesterday’s edition narrating the delay in the approval and payment of his National Insurance Scheme pension. According to Mr. Chetaru, he attained the age of sixty on the 24th February, 2018 and filed for his pension on 3 January, 2018.

Editor, without in any way taking away the pain of Mr. Chetaru who is now unemployed, and for whom the NIS pension will probably be his main if not only source of income, our experience is that there are many other similar cases. Too often, the NIS, which is charged with the duty to manage contributions by the self-employed and the employed and their employers for the payment of short-term and long-term benefits, comes across as uncaring, if not callous.  

I am not trying to console or scare Mr. Chetaru but the delay in his case pales compared with a nineteen-year saga of a 79-year-old woman which finally ended in her favour a few days ago after intervention by our legal firm. In her case, she was fortunate that the majority of her service was in the employment of Banks DIH which readily assisted with supporting information and made her case against the NIS irresistible.

Compare that with the misfortune of employees of those employers who failed to pay over their contributions, or which have gone out of business, or whose records were destroyed by fire such as the Ministry of Transport and Hydraulics, or which liquidated its operations only to appear under another guise. The NIS is very well aware of who these companies are but yet seems more willing to penalise the affected employees instead of aggressively prosecuting those employers. That is the height – or depth – of injustice.   

The NIS Act of 1969 Act is partly responsible for the hardships suffered by workers making claims against the NIS. But my experience with NIS law and their operation, forces me to conclude that the Board and the senior management are also culpable for the inordinate delay in agreeing and then paying claims. While their supposed fear that any flexibility will open a floodgate of claims may not be entirely unfounded, the experienced staff of the NIS must surely be able to separate the genuine claims from the contrived ones. Whether they intend it or not, the effect of their sloth and cruelty is that many persons die before their claim is resolved.

The NIS cannot be unaware that once a person dies, no one pursues the claim for any pension otherwise payable. And they know, as well as anyone, that the average life expectancy in Guyana is 63.6 for men, with the women doing better, going on to 69. From its records, the NIS will know too that not every qualifying person has the will to fight the NIS bureaucracy, often resigned to accept a minor grant rather than pursue a more life-supporting pension. 

Ms. Sahadai who pursued her claim despite her deteriorating health, and the 79-year-old whose claim was settled after nineteen years, are exceptions which cause them to stand out. I understand that there are hundreds of other claims still to be resolved even as there has been no Commissioner of National Insurance. 

While the Act and Regulations need major revisions, there is also an urgent need for a new, more uniform, humane approach by the Board, the management and the staff to contributors and claimants.

Yours faithfully,

Christopher Ram 


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