No pension funds unaccounted for – GPOC

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The Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC) is disputing reports that millions of dollars that were earmarked for pension payments are unaccounted for, noting that accounts for pension payments have been reconciled monthly for years.

On Wednesday, GPOC Public Relations Officer Thalissa Grant-McClure explained that after pension payments are reconciled, the reconciliation statement is sent to the Human Services and Social Security Ministry. She said this is a practice that has been in effect even before 2016, when the Auditor General flagged over $500 million in pension payments that were unreconciled.

“To further clarify the issue at hand, it is necessary to note that the pension payment system operates as a revolving imprest. To this end, GPOC must submit coupons on a weekly basis to the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, which are then forwarded to the Ministry of Finance.”

She noted that this forms the cyclical process of the pension payments, since coupons can be cashed throughout the month. “GPOC receives money from the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security which are paid out via coupons, these are then submitted to the Ministry for reimbursement,” the PRO stated.

All coupons, Grant-McClure said, have to be verified and submitted. However, since pension becomes payable at the beginning of every month, GPOC would have an advance of cash on hand in order to ensure persons can continue receiving their payments smoothly.

“Additionally, there are times when GPOC would cash coupons in good faith in advance of the cash provided to the corporation. Thus, as at December 30, 2016, the advance amount as stated was utilised to encash coupons from the first working day of January 2017,” she explained.

“Over the years, additional systems were implemented to monitor the payment process, and we are working with the Ministry to implement a computerised system to facilitate daily financial updates,” she explained.

The PRO has said the corporation’s financial team is willing to sit down with the Auditor General and the Ministry in order to address and clarify any outstanding issues.

During Monday’s sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the Ministry of Human Service and Social Security’s Permanent Secretary Shannielle Hoosein-Outar had explained that the accounts would be closed so that the monies could be reconciled.

“Normally, GPOC would send the Ministry a statement, and we would look at it and compare it to our cash books, because we’re supposed to have the same balance. We would give GPOC the funds, they would pay to the pensioners, and they would bring the coupons back into us.

“There was a difference of $115 million, which we are still reconciling with the assistance of the Auditor General’s Office. As it stands right now, we have taken the advice of the Auditor General and we are in the process of closing the old old age pension account and opening a new old age pension account,” the PS said.

In his 2016 report, Auditor General Deodat Sharma had found that $594 million that were meant for monthly old age pension payments could not be reconciled. The monies that were unreconciled have since been reduced to $115.9 million as at 2017. The Ministers of what was then the Social Protection Ministry during that two-year span were Volda Lawrence and Amna Ally.