The Sunday Leader

Pensions Dept. That Demeans The Pensioner

by Ranjith Gunawardena

The wife and children maintenance fees which was initiated during the colonial era as a show of gratitude to foreigners who worked in this country on contract, was later passed as the Pensions Act through the Constitutional Board. The Pensions Department was established as the sole authorised institution that pays this pension, during the British era. Currently the Pensions Department has to bear the burden of having to pay these foreigners’ dependents a pension payment in Sterling Pounds in keeping with their cost of living standards. Among the almost 600,000 pensioners, there are those representing the various segments of society. That is based not on their character but on their economic standard. In the recent past those fortunate enough to receive special government pensions are the past Presidents and their spouses and ministers.

The Attorney General’s department presented a report to parliament in May 2017, containing findings of the inspection carried out on the duties and responsibilities of the Pensions Department. According to its findings, a strong internal management system had not been established through proper restructuring of the Pensions Department, leading to numerous shortcomings and failures.

 

Failure to produce death certificates of pensioners within stipulated time

Due to the failure of Grama Seva officers’ failure to produce the death certificates of pensioners in a timely manner, during the past four years the Pensions Department had deposited Rs. 2,487,200 into their accounts, while their dependents had been obtaining the money, the report revealed.

Issuing of widows and orphans pension certificates  The issuing of widows and orphans certificates are handled external to the Pensions Department and failure to update the records of the pensioners at the time of retirement has led to huge delays in payments. Further, this leads to accumulation of payments and the Pensions Department has to incur huge payments, the report stated.

Failure to take systematic action against fraudulent officers

The fraudulent activities taking place within the Pensions Department and failure by the authorities to take disciplinary action against officers found to be responsible for the additional payments made, have all contributed to the frauds and corruption taking place within the department, the report presented to parliament revealed.  True pensioners and pension documentsThe report also reveals that there are discrepancies between the number of pensioners and pension documentation, essential documents that should be included in these pension files not being there and disparities in the payments of pensions even in files of the same category and class.

 

Payment of pensions under restructuring

In the Auditor General’s Department investigation of the data base of the Pensions Department, they found that 31 pensioners had received payments twice over costing the department Rs. 5.5 million while they had to pay a further 134 pensioners arrears amounting to Rs. 19.19 million.

 

Charity allowance and maintenance

Due to the interim allowance amounting to Rs. 2,500 being paid to 32 pensioners entitled to   the Charity allowance  and who are not eligible to receive the interim allowance, the department has lost Rs. 0.47 million in additional payments as dependent’s allowance. The department had also paid Rs. 8.54 million in additional payments by failing to pay the interim payment and paying the whole amount singularly among 1552 persons.

 

Payment of pensions non-collectively

The pensions that should be paid collectively which are not being paid that way and by paying the whole interim allowance amount among 1575 pensioners, the department had to pay an additional Rs. 80.61 million.

 

Cost of living allowance

The department has also lost a further Rs. 15.67 million in additional payments by exceeding the maximum widows’ pension to 102 beneficiaries, the report further revealed.

Failure to charge the 60% of the retirement bonus monthly

According to the pension constitution code paragraph 20 and 25, 60% of the retirement bonus had to be charged back to the department as monthly instalments. Yet of the retired Supreme Court and Appeals court judges who had expressed desire to and obtained the retirement bonus, the department had failed to recover the 60% as monthly installments, the report revealed.

Loss of Interest payments to the State Service provident fund

Due to the nine month delay in depositing the cheque worth Rs. 454 to the State Services Provident Fund it lost Rs. 24 million as interest for that nine month period.

 

Pensions not paid by foreign embassies

 The report further revealed that during an audit research conducted by the AG;s Department in September 2015 a the Australian and New Zealand High Commissions, they found that Rs. 58.88 million in pensions due from 2012 to 2015 September was held by these institutions and the Pensions Department had not taken any action to get that money to the department.

Pension and allowances to those killed in the war or disabled  The government had granted the security forces and police Rs. 23432.65 million to continue to pay the war heroes killed or disabled during the war, until the age of 55. The expenses reports pertaining to these payments, the differences in beneficiary numbers, their pension numbers or widows and orphans numbers, national identity card numbers, dependents details, information on the Divisional secretaries through which the payments are to be made etc was requested by the AG’s department, but as the pensions department had not responded positively, they could not conduct a satisfactory inspection, the report further stated.

Further, in the AG’s Dept. inspecting the files of 2773 pensioners currently residing in Canada, they found that there were 304 who did not have identity cards, 369 of them did not have their identity card numbers entered into the data system, 162 did not have pension award certificates, 231 did not have proof of living and 169 of their details on how they were receiving their pensions through the foreign missions, the report stated.

Payment of retirement bonus through bank loans Regards to the 2013 and 2014 the department had received 17,029 pension bonus applications. Yet without proper scrutiny this bonus had been deposited to their bank accounts directly together with the abatement charges that was due to the government from the pension local government officers.

Accordingly, they had paid Rs. 9.96 million in excess to 182 pensioners in pension bonuses and as the pension bonus is paid as a bank loan, the government had to pay an additional 12% as interest for these loans. In addition although there was Rs. 18000 million allocated for pension bonuses in 2015, this allocation had not been used and instead Rs. 2209 had been paid as bonuses. Accordingly, by December 31, 2015 the total loans balance was Rs. 19,289.29 million. Due to the many fraudulent and inaccurate issues resulting in the department having to pay excess amounts, in September 2015, the department commenced the central data network and they also commenced payments of the widows and orphans pensions. The department also commenced the pension arrears from June 2014 and the first time pensions also commenced in October 2014 under the restructuring process.

Pensioners receive as monthly pensions, monies that were deducted from their salaries and the accumulated interest which at their retirement adds up to several lakhs. The pensions department and government should remember that these pensioners are not asking for handouts, these are their monies that are being paid back to them.

1 Comment for “Pensions Dept. That Demeans The Pensioner”

  1. Nimal

    Yest we must show gratitude the Colonials who left a fine country now been ruined by our politicians and some of the people who are not up to the standards expected in a good country.

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