ADB breaching law – no pension for retirees after 56 years in existence

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Oropouche West MP Davendranath Tancoo. – File photo

THE Public Accounts Committee of Parliament sounded an alarm on June 26, when it was revealed that for 56 years, since the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) has been in existence, not a single retiree has benefited from a pension scheme.

Chairman of the PAC Dave Tancoo, heading an inquiry into the audited financial statements of the ADB for the financial years 2014-2018, said this was a breach of the Act of Parliament which established the bank in 1968.

Senator Hazel Thompson-Ahye said she could not believe that over the past 56 years, retirees had gone home empty handed.

Tancoo noted that thousands of people would have worked their entire lives at the ADB, which boasted of being on par with other banks, only to receive a less-than-adequate government pension.

Tancoo sounded an alarm after assistant auditor general Anneshah Baksh told the meeting the only issue outstanding for the period under review was the creation of the pension scheme.

Tancoo sought answers from ADB’s corporate manager, finance and administration, Gleason Garraway as to the current status of that plan.

Garraway said the cost factor to initiate the scheme was a deterrent in the past.

“We have put measures in place, not only to cost our pension scheme that we need to initiate, that has been initiated for the last year, and a report would be sent to the board for its consideration.

“Over the years the pension scheme was not established as it was discovered to be very costly in the past. As such, the pension scheme was not formed.”

Tancoo said, “I am concerned that the pension scheme was not previously issued, especially hearing the acting CEO Wendy Samsundar-Beharry identify how long the ADB has been in existence.

“So we would have had multiplicity of individuals who would have served their entire lives working at the ADB without the benefit of a pension scheme.”

He observed that while one of the critical criteria for the band was the cost, he reminded Garraway that pension usually carries a contributory component between both employer and worker, and should have been considered at some point since 1968.

He asked Garraway what changed to have the ADB finally consider implementing the pension after decades of existence.

Garraway said the thought process of past management found it too expensive but the present management was exploring all avenues to have a scheme established.

“Especially seeing that throughout the different audits, year to year, the auditor general’s department has always advised that a pension scheme, as per the act, had to be established.”

This infuriated Tancoo who said this admission reminded him, “That it was not just too expensive, it was a mandate of the Act of Parliament, so it was a requirement of the law that a pension scheme be put in place.

“It is therefore of some concern to myself that the act has been ignored over an extensive period.”

He pressed Garraway for a timeline to have the process finally initiated.“Do you have any idea, given that you have already breached the act for so many years, (of) a time frame when this scheme required by the act would be implemented?”

Garraway replied, “I would say at the end of this financial year. I expect that the information would be sent to the board within the month of July, so at the end of the financial year, a decision should be made in terms of the type of pension scheme that would be established by the end of the next financial year, which is October 1, 2024-September 30, 2025.”

With respect to the inquiry from Thompson-Ahye as to whether the retirees were sent home with a lump sum payment, Garraway said they would have been recipients of a government pension.

Tancoo further expressed disappointment when he was told that after the scheme comes on stream, it would not benefit employees who retired before the effective date of the plan.