DPP must ensure justice is done following Munir murder acquittals by Albert Baldeo
Many rural folks, especially Indo-Guyanese have difficulties accessing their NIS (National Insurance Scheme) benefits. Sugar workers especially have had difficulties navigating the government bureaucracies that process NIS claims. Most ordinary, barely educated people do not usually know how to navigate dealing with Government offices – where to go, who to talk to, what to do if you are not satisfied with answers given, etc. So for many, obtaining NIS benefits has been an ongoing nightmare. The PPP has not set up offices in all NDCs (Neighborhood Democratic Councils) where people can go for assistance and guidance. NIS applicants are at the mercy of whomever are the employees at the NIS Offices. They can facilitate or they can frustrate you. Some people give up after they get the run around. Therefore, the announcement by President Ali to fix problems at NIS (National Insurance Scheme) and fix slow processing of Passports are to be highly commended. We need the same for Birth Certificates, TIN numbers, other Government documents and approvals. High fives for the President. It means people will get NIS benefits before they die. It shows the President understands these ongoing issues that are vexations to the working class. When Government agencies fail to do their jobs or operate in a persistent inefficient mode, that brings much embarrassment to the President’s administration. It also means Ministers are not on top of things at their Ministries. The Ministers themselves are problems when they don’t return your calls, texts, or you can’t meet with them. Ministers being arrogant and inaccessible is not good leadership. They are supposed to be servants of the people. The Public Service Ministry should lead in this area. Maybe find better Ministers or train the current ones what good customer service looks like. I can do for free.
The NIS has forever been a poster child for governmental inefficiency in Guyana. After dealing with the NIS on my 88-year-old Cousin being given the royal run around for 28 years, I have concluded that the NIS is like Humpty Dumpty – all the King’s horses and all the King’s men cannot put Humpty Dumpty together again. (See Haji Roshan Khan’s “An Open Letter to President Ali: The NIS is sadistically murdering Guyanese, please do something,” SN, Aug. 26, 2023. See M. Singh’s “The NIS: a scheme of Darwinian proportions, meaning, that Ministers are failing,” SN, Sep 04, 2023).
The NIS was supposed to be a safety net for retired people at a time when they are most vulnerable and in need of support. When you call the NIS and can’t reach anyone, when you call until you are blue and they will not return your calls, when they deal with you in callous ways devoid of any empathy or sympathy, this agency needs a makeover with a new crew. President Ali is doing the right thing to jack them up. With 10,000 angry, upset, frustrated people, the NIS can cause the Government to suffer electorally. Ten thousand working class people given the run around is almost two seats! In my Cousin’s case, the Minister’s Office arranged meetings for us to meet the General Manager but she cancelled twice and never responded to many emails. The NIS keeps saying my Cousin is missing contributions, when in fact he did work. Not because NIS does not have all your contributions means you did not work. It means the NIS did not do its statutory duty in monitoring employers and making sure all records are up to date. They bully people. So when you reach 60 and you apply for NIS, it is then you find out they had not been doing their jobs and your contribution record is incomplete. So why is NIS punishing poor people when missing contributions record is not their fault? The Courts had already ruled that if employers had deducted money from your paycheck for NIS but did not turn the money in, you still have to give the employee credit. It was not the employee’s fault.
Photo : Dr. Jerry Jailall
There needs to be a similar court ruling or policy change for cases where employers did not submit complete records of employees’ contributions. Mr. President, there needs to be a more worker-friendly, humane approach when contribution records are missing and incomplete. Punish the NIS for doing a bad job, don’t punish the employee. Since incomplete records are not the fault of the employees, how will the NIS resolve that issue? They simply cannot tell people we don’t have your records, you do not qualify for monthly benefits, go away. That’s what they said to my Cousin and many others. As for the current NIS Board, it is useless because they go along with the NIS story and don’t listen to the employee’s story. It’s not an honest broker.
Regarding the Passport Office, not too long ago, you could get a Passport in one week. Then it moved to one month. Now they tell you come back in 10 weeks. The reason why people come to Georgetown for Passports is because it takes longer in the regions. If the regions can process as quickly as the Georgetown Office, we can eliminate the daily long lines in the Georgetown Office. Can we stop this inequity in treatment, and reduce the sloth of Government in the regions? Let’s end this culture of inefficiency which seems calculated to fuel the bribery industry.
On the brighter side in the Government, the Drivers’ Licence Section needs to be commended as you can get a licence renewed the same day at the Georgetown Office. Congratulations to the GRA.
Dr. Jerry Jailall