A trade union leader is calling for the resignation of Social Security Minister Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo over the late payment of benefits, including pensions, to thousands of Barbadians by the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
Speaking just days after Government minister Donville Inniss suggested the firing of the top management of the state-run entity, General Secretary of the Unity Workers Union Caswell Franklyn said the situation should never have developed.
He argued there should have been a backup system, and insisted that as the minister with NIS oversight Byer-Suckoo must be held responsible.
“For once I agree with a Government minister that heads should roll. The National Insurance department is now a national scandal. It’s just that nobody is talking about it. They implemented a new computer system three years ago That system was budgeted to cost $9 million. They messed up so badly they had to keep fixing it and it has now reached to $60 million and they haven’t finished [making additions] yet . . . and they don’t have a backup because the old system they had, they shut it down as soon as they start up the new system,” Franklyn told Barbados TODAY.
The NIS, in a statement last week, attributed the situation to a computer hardware malfunction.
However, Franklyn contended that incompetence, rather than lack of funds, was responsible for the foul up.
“People should not have to go through this suffering and there’s not adverse consequences to the people responsible. Anywhere else in the world that runs under the Westminster system, the minister responsible would have tendered her resignation. But in Barbados we don’t do things like that. Somebody’s head should roll at the National Insurance level and at the ministerial level because the minister should have made sure that this didn’t occur,” he stressed.
The umbrella body for trade unions — the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB)– has also expressed deep displeasure with the situation.
President Cedric Murrell said he too was concerned about the lack of a backup system, and was hopeful the glitch would be rectified by the end of this week as indicated by the NIS.
“We have to get our public administration correct and, in this case, while systems fail we ought to have a more efficient backup that would have allowed our elderly people to have received some type of payment in the interim. One does hope that the promise that the problem would be fixed by this week and that cheques would be out would be out by Friday would be kept,” he said.
“With the increased cost of everything over the last four or five years or so, many of these individuals certainly would be really looking for that cheque and, therefore, we really have to do better than this in taking care of older people who have given their blood, sweat and tears to make this island what it is and for us to even have a National Insurance Scheme,” Murrell added.
Meantime, the Barbados Light & Power Company Limited, in a statement to Barbados TODAY, said it was making provisions to assist affected pensioners.
In a short statement on the matter, BL&P said it was “aware of the challenges that this delay with the issue of NIS pension cheques may have on the ability of some pensioners to pay their electricity bill on time.
“Any pensioner who has an electricity account with us that is affected by this delay and, as a result needs additional time to pay their electricity bill, may contact our Customer Service representative at 626-4300 to make appropriate arrangements for extending their payment period.”
The Social Security minister has declined to comment on the matter, instead pointing to a statement issued last week by the NIS board.
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