The former Chairman of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) is calling for urgent action to help elderly Barbadians who are anxiously awaiting their pensions, suggesting that no effort should be spared to ensure they get their money.
Independent Senator Tony Marshall told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that because of the seriousness of the situation, “the greatest” effort was required.
Yesterday, the NIS announced that the delivery of all benefits, including pensions would be delayed because of a hardware malfunction that had severely affected the department’s computer network.
“Given the reason for the situation is stated as a hardware issue, one would have thought that the technical personnel in NIS would have been in touch with technical people elsewhere, who support the [information technology] platform, with a view to resolving the matter by telephone,” argued Marshall.
He said in the event that was not possible, “then my previous experience in the corporate world would suggest arrangements should be made with the greatest urgency to have the piece of hardware flown into this country”.
“When one considers the matter, given the thousands of persons likely to be affected and the backlog likely to be created, the matter becomes one of the greatest urgency,” Marshall added.
He argued that the information technology department at the NIS was staffed with enough competent and dedicated people whom he expected would do what was right.
Marshall’s comments came as 90-year-old pensioner Muriel Lowe made an appeal on behalf of others who would suffer as a result of not getting their pension cheques on time.
The former School Meals Department worker, who currently receives two pensions, said she could depend on her savings to get by.
However, she expressed concern for those elderly individuals who were not in a similar position.
“Try and get the people money to the people; try and pay the people because they need the money,” the King Edward Road, Bank Hall, St Michael resident appealed to the NIS.
She further suggested that the NIS return to issuing cheques manually, for the time being.
“Go back to writing with your hand. From the time you find the computer is not working, do that . . . God give you hands, use them and [everybody] wouldn’t get them pension early but they would still be satisfied,” Lowe said.
Several efforts to reach the director of the NIS Ian Carrington and the department’s corporation communications officer Derek Lowe were unsuccessful.
However, in a statement issued by the Government Information Service this evening, Carrington said the team at the NIS was working hard to rectify the issue and “we are hopeful that if everything goes well this weekend” pension cheques would be in the post by next Friday.
He explained that the hardware malfunction stemmed from the failure of a backup power supply for the production servers in the department.
“That [power] supply is a unique piece of equipment that has to be manufactured to fit that specific number of servers. We have been able to get the supplier to configure for us the power supply and, as of today, I can advise you that it is in Atlanta, to arrive in Barbados by this weekend,” he said.
Carrington said he empathised with members of the public, noting that employees at the NIS and their families were also affected.
“My mother and father are pensioners; most of the staff members at NIS have some relatives who are pensioners. Traditionally, we deliver [pensions] at least a week early. In this situation we are going to be a few days late and we are doing our very best to have the problem solved in the shortest possible time,” he said.