Bureaucracy at NIS led to huge backlog

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…Govt seeks to reduce red tape – Finance Minister

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh engaging members of the public

The Government of Guyana, in the space of seven months, has been able to ensure that the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) reduced the backlog of claims from 14,000 to 3000, a backlog it hopes to further reduce through several outreaches across the country starting on Saturday.

This is according to Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh, during an interview at the first outreach at the Giftland Mall. He acknowledged that many have complained about the red tape and other hurdles associated with accessing services at NIS.

“For quite some time, you would know that a large number of contributors to NIS and NIS pensioners have been encountering a number of challenges in their interactions with the scheme. For a variety of reasons, including issues of bureaucracy, timeliness of processing transactions and so forth.”

“When we came into Government, we recognised that this was an issue that required very urgent attention. And immediately upon appointment of a new Board, I raised with the Board the issue regarding the ease of interaction between contributors and NIS. And I charged the Board to take immediate steps to smooth processing of NIS transactions.,” he said.

According to Dr Singh, the Board immediately sprang into action and over the past few months, has chalked up a number of achievements. One of these was NIS’ ability to reduce the backlog of claims from 14,000 to 3000, a difference of 11,000 and it is hoped the outreach will help reduce it further. Another issue NIS has tackled head on is the processing of life certificates.

“If you submit your life certificate and it’s not processed in a timely manner, you would be unable to get your pension and you might even drop out of the pension roll. On average in each pension cycle, you would have about 3000 life certificates that were not processed in a timely manner and this would result in a pensioner paying their pension late or a pension dropping off the pensioner’s roll,” he said, further noting that the NIS has been able to reduce this number to zero.

Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh addressing a NIS contributor’s concern during the outreach

Some of the things they have implemented include processing these life certificates through WhatsApp video calls which would provide an interface between pensioners, whether local or overseas and NIS staffers.

During Saturday’s outreach at the Giftland Mall, persons were able to meet directly with the Minister, members of the Board and senior management. NIS will next be at the Parika car park in Region Three on July 18, with additional locations to be announced later.

So important is the issue of NIS to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government, that President Dr Irfaan Ali himself led an outreach into Region Two in December of last year to listen to citizens’ concerns, including their concerns about NIS.

During that presidential outreach, the Head of State heard multiple complaints about the NIS at the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) office in Anna Regina. He then instructed NIS Head, Holly Greaves, who was among the high-level team that was at the public event, to “fix it now”.

The Head of State had posited that all Guyanese should be treated fairly, and that all agencies and Government offices should be working to enhance the people’s lives and the services they provide.