Corporate NIS defaulters must pay up
THE LIST OF delinquent businesses and individuals owing the National Insurance Board published in yesterday’s Sunday Sun makes for very sober reading. It tells one story: a sense of irresponsible corporate behaviour on the part of these defaulters.
Ever so often, employers speak of cash flow challenges in meeting their financial obligations, without recognizing that the funds they deduct but fail to hand over are from employees many of whom can speak to their own personal hardships. Sound corporate governance requires that statutory requirements are carried out without fail. It should be one of the priorities of any business to ensure that these payments are made.
In business, as in every sphere of human endeavour, there are certain golden rules which must be adhered. A corporate citizen, like an individual, must be honest and uphold basic ethical values. Not paying the NIS contributions is downright dishonest and places many livelihoods in financial risk.
This non-compliance by these defaulters can also throw our entire social security system into a perilous state. When the next actuarial review of the scheme is undertaken, hopefully there will be some commentary on the impact these delinquent employers have had on it. There may be a situation where the scheme is in no worse shape that it was in recent years, but this can be of no comfort to those of us who will be dependent on the scheme within short order.
The purpose of social security is to help families. It is a financial lifeline here in Barbados as it helps retirees at the end of their working life and during critical periods: sickness, maternity leave and invalidity. The modest pensions it provides will be the only fallback for many people in our society and by extension for their children, easing them from carrying all the financial burden of providing for their parents. It is an entitlement for those who have contributed. The callous behaviour of some employers must not be allowed to undermine this expectation.
But there are many questions which must be answered by NIS Board and its director since the placement of the delinquent names is not enough.
How long have these companies or individuals been delinquent? Did the NIS move to find out why payments were not forthcoming after three months’ delinquency? Do the NIS inspectors go to employers to hear firsthand the reasons for the delinquency?
We also need to know how much is owed by those listed? The total number of people these businesses employ? Have any of these companies been beneficiaries of government contracts since being delinquent? Will the directors of registered limited liability companies be held liable? What happens were the businesses have been closed?
We cannot afford to undermine the integrity of our Social Security system. Immediate and firm action must be taken against the defaulters.