Jul 17, 2016 News
PPP/C turned a blind eye to specifics in Old Age Pension Act – Nandlall
Even as the Ministry of Social Protection continues to take step towards curbing the incidence of fraud and illegality committed against the Old Age Pension Scheme, citizens, law makers and Opposition politicians are raising their concerns about the matter.
Former Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General (AG) Anil Nandlall is one such politician.
In a detailed post on his social media page, Nandlall who is also, a People Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C), Member of Parliament, outlined what he described as a convenient shield by the Coalition Government for the provisions of the Old Age Pension Act.
Commenting specifically on the decision by the government to no longer pay Old Age Pension to persons who are resident overseas, the former AG admitted that the specifications of the Old Age Pension Act have been the law since 1953.
Nandlall said , though, that over the last 20 years, the PPP/C Government turned a blind-eye to them and paid Old Age pension to every person who attained the age of 65.
“Age, therefore, was the only qualification used by the PPP/C administration. It was never a question of law,” the former AG quipped. The decision of the Government to cut the pension to overseas Guyanese is a desperate act to preserve the failing economy, he said.
The matter came to the fore, after Minister of Social Protection Volda Lawrence revealed that the Ministry will soon be putting measures in place to ensure that Guyanese living in other countries do not access a Guyanese pension, a process she described as “double dipping.”
The Minister noted that the old age pension scheme has been a subject of abuse.
“When persons not living in Guyana access pension from both the Guyana government and the country in which they live; it is unfair especially for elderly persons living here,” she said.
Lawrence said that recently the old age pension scheme grew as a host of overseas-based Guyanese, who had returned for 50th Independence Anniversary celebrations, took advantage to register to draw down the monies.
“These persons are looking to benefit both places; we can’t tolerate the double dipping,” the Minister stressed.
According to Lawrence, the government plans to increase the limit of the old age pension scheme. However she explained that the money currently being accessed by some overseas-based pensioners can be used to boost the benefits for elderly persons living in Guyana.
The monthly pension which stands at just over $18,000 can be increased to $20,000 or more, Lawrence added.
Additionally, the Minister announced that the Ministry will be digitising the pension system to make it more efficient in identifying redundancies in the system.
The digitised database will also indicate to the ministry persons who are authorising others to collect their pensions, which is an indication that they are not in Guyana. The digitising of the pension database will also see greater accountability within the pension system, and probation officers will have more time to do additional field work and conduct visitations.
According to a statement by the Ministry of Social Protection under the Old Age Pension Act (Chapter 36:03), it clearly states that applicants must meet certain statutory conditions to qualify for Old Age Pension.
These statutory conditions are that the person must have attained the age of 65 years; must satisfy the appropriate authority that he/she has been a citizen of Guyana for at least ten years immediately preceding his/her claim for a pension, and the person must have been ordinarily resident in Guyana during the 20 years immediately preceding their claim for pension.
“In the event that the person is temporarily absent from Guyana, the applicant or pensioner must satisfy the Authority, usually through the provision of the person’s passport and an immigration check conducted by the Ministry, that the period of absence from Guyana has not exceeded two years during the past 20 years, according to law.”
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