During last week, the Stabroek News reported that the Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC) and the Ministry of Public Telecommunications are currently researching the introduction of a “debit card-like system” for pensioners to receive their monthly payments. In effect, this research is focused on linking the GPOC with the banking system.
I have no problem with this research; however, it is my view that the pension payments at the post offices need to be thoroughly reviewed. I say this based on my experiences and observations of the operations of GPOC.
As a pensioner, I would normally go the post office after the second working day in the month to encash my pension voucher. I have experienced, at three post offices (refrained from naming them), “sorry sir we have no cash, please return tomorrow” over the past two years for approximately 50 percent of my visits.
On Saturday 3 February, payment ceased at that post office at 7:30am, since it was out of cash and was awaiting reimbursement. I left that post office, frustrated as usual and went to the main branch post office where I received my pension. Could you imagine the number of pensioners who would also have been told to return for their pensions? Whenever I ask to see the Officer in Charge (the Postmaster), the usual response is he/she is unavailable.
It is obvious to me that there is a critical management problem existing at GPOC when it comes to pension payments. If there is proper financial planning, a post office should not be out of cash for pension payments. Each post office should be preparing a monthly cash budget for pension payments.
As an example, this monthly budgeted amount should be the average actual payments over the last 3 months, as well as another 10 to 15 percent on that average monthly amount, for unforeseen circumstances. Hopefully with proper financial planning, a post office should possess adequate cash to meet the monthly pension payments.
On day 1 at the post office there is only one wicket open, invariably not promptly at 07:00 hours. There should be at least two wickets open on day 1 and 2 respectively, in order to process these payments, and if there is an unusual large number of pensioners on hand, then open a third wicket temporarily. If there are pensioners to be paid at closing time – 15:00 hours – then the post office should be open beyond the closure time so as to make those payments. Further, the Postmaster should be visible in managing the execution of this system.
Adequate security arrangements are necessary. There should be one guard inside the post office and another outside of the post office on the peak pension days. At the post office I had visited on February 3, I saw no security guard.
It is evident that the executive management and the Board of the GPOC are not fully addressing the system of paying pensions. On the research of payment of pensions through the bank, if GPOC wants to interface with the banking system, today’s pensioners may hardly want to be using a debit card. Those pensioners who are presently using debit cards would be inclined to use a card for pension. They may be less than 20 percent, however it can be adopted.
An alternate system should be established with the banks for them to pay old age pensions similar to the bank system for National Insurance Scheme (NIS) pensioners. On the presentation of the NIS voucher, the bank pays accordingly. It will require that the Ministry of Social Protection promptly reimburse the respective banks each month on receipt of the bank’s invoices for old age pensions. Involving the banks will result in fewer pensioners going to the various post offices, and this will apply to geographical areas where commercial banks are established.
In closing, it is imperative that I state my experience and observations on the payment of pensions in order to justify a review of the present system. The decision makers of the GPOC need to address the weaknesses of this system and then to strengthen it in keeping with best practices. Now is the time for less talk and more positive action to be taken by the respective authorities. Our pensioners, who have served this country well, need a revised and efficient system of pension payments.
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