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EDITORIAL: Vital that NIS retains public trust

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Vital that NIS retains public trust

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This country’s social security scheme has been in the news for the wrong reasons in recent days, given its inability to deliver pension cheques in its usual efficient manner. This unfortunate development sparked fear among many on the viability of the scheme. It is not an issue which the leadership of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) can dismiss as foolishness.

We have no doubt the NIS has adequate reserves to meet its obligations to its thousands of beneficiaries. The scheme has long undertaken prudent investments which yield good returns. Even if not of its own making, the NIS has become embroiled in debates which have caused the public to be ever more watchful of this successful social security system.

The unfortunate discussion into which the NIS has been drawn between opposing political antagonists, on how and where it invests its money and what are the best options for the scheme, has only caused further worry amongst beneficiaries and contributors.

To hear that there is a problem resulting in delayed payments can only add suspicion to doubts, no matter the official explanation. This is most unfortunate at a time when the NIS needs continued confidence in its operations.

Over the years, the department has had an advertising campaign in which it boldly states “It belongs to you, it belongs to us”, a slogan that has come to be proven and tested. It is therefore important that every effort be made by the NIS’ leadership to retain the public’s trust.

The scheme must outline all the problems which have so clearly embarrassed an otherwise outstanding social security system and at the same time may have created hardship for many people whose main means of economic survival is their NIS payment.

There is a long-running joke among many NIS staff about the scheme’s information technology (IT) system. They paint it as problem-plagued and extremely expensive. Some describe it as a farcical situation – indeed, as the ideal screwball comedy pointing to incidents seemingly too ridiculous to simply laugh away, such as astronomical consultancy fees.

This is the ideal time for NIS director Ian Carrington to be more candid on any technology problems which have bedevilled its operations. He should also say what has been spent on the system and the tangible results gained. As IT becomes more critical to the NIS operations, there can be no repeat of the current fiasco.

There are few other things which touch the lives of Barbadians as does the NIS. It must at all times be efficiently and effectively managed. Mr Carrington and his leadership team must understand the public wants to repose full confidence in the scheme and at the same time to know that it remains viable. Nothing should be done to undermine either.