We are the Probation and Social Service Officers (P&SSO) working at the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security.
We notice that recently in the budget presentation in the Parliament, a Member of Parliament, Mrs. Sheila Holder, is reported in the newspaper as saying that there are 17,640 phantom pensioners on the pension system. It is claimed too that over $116 million a month and $1.3 billion a year is spent to pay these phantom pensioners. The claim is that there could never be in 2010 more than 26,340 persons receiving old age pensions.
We are the persons who distribute the pension books to the old age pensioners which contain vouchers that are en-cashed by the old age pensioners on a monthly basis. Hence it is the postal clerks/employees at the various Post Offices across the country that pays the pensioners during their transactions.
We are extremely dissatisfied that it is alleged that there are 17,640 phantom pensioners in the system. However, as this is an unsubstantiated assumption, we asked that politicians be careful with their allegations that posit facts before they make statements that could damage our reputation and lives as for some of us this statement already has.
We wish to place on record how a pension book is approved for and distributed to a pensioner.
1. A Guyanese citizen who has resided in Guyana for at least two years is eligible for old age pension. That person would have to apply to the Ministry through any one of us.
2. The applicant would have to provide a birth certificate or evidence of his/her age and provide identification.
3. The form is then completed by the officer and then it is vetted and signed off by three senior officers: the Assistant Chief Probation and Social Services Officer responsible for Social Security, the Chief Probation and Social Services Officer and the Director of Social Services.
4. The application is then passed on to the MISU unit.
5. The MISU department then assigns to the applicant a case number and prints on a specialized sticker the pensioner’s identification card/ passport number, the case number, the name of the pensioner, the address of the pensioner and other security features.
6. This booklet is then issued to the pensioner usually within six weeks of date of application.
7. The pensioner then goes every month to any branch of the GPO and en-cashes his/her voucher. This is different where post offices do not exist. In those cases the Ministry arranges for monies to be paid on a quarterly basis to the pensioners.
8. A pensioner is entitled to authorise another person to receive the pension on behalf of the pensioner.
9. If a voucher has not been en-cashed for three months it cannot be en-cashed by the GPO except it has been approved by the Director of Social Services.
10. Each booklet has peculiar security features that are known to all who have to process/address the en-cashing of a voucher.
Mr. Editor, as you may be able to appreciate from the procedure outlined above, it would require collaboration amongst a large number of persons to defraud the system namely at least a citizen, Probation and Social Services Officer and the staff at the Post Office to do what the Parliamentarian is alleging happened. We work hard and way beyond the call of duty and we love our jobs.
In November and December we worked day and sometimes night at a time when most people were enjoying their Christmas holiday to make sure that pensioners receive their pension books for year 2011.
Together, we have personally hand delivered over the last six weeks more than 37,000 pension books to old age pensioners. We saw them! We spoke to them when we were giving them their pension books! We are sure that they are not phantoms. We still have more books to distribute to persons who are incapacitated (shut-ins) and to persons who were unable to receive their books for other legitimate reasons. Please be assured that whenever anomalies are identified in the system they are dealt with expeditiously. We will continue to deliver these books to our dear pensioners and maintain the highest integrity satisfying the pensioners in the discharge of our duties.
At times we have had to operate under difficult and uncomfortable physical circumstances, however, we continue to function in the interest of our pensioners and maintain service delivery. We must, therefore, uphold our reputation. Ever since careless statements were made one of us was told that she must be involved in this (imaginary) fraud and another told she driving a fraud car. We work hard to own the little that we do. We ask that we be allowed the peace to enjoy the fruits of our labour. We should not be made the casualties of political quarrels.
We have no problem with anyone scrutinizing our work and we invite anyone who so wishes to come along with us when we distribute the pension books to pensioners.