Auditor General helps 3,872 pensioners

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Bridgid Annisette-George –

AUDITOR GENERAL Lorelly Pujadas said her office, in conjunction with the Treasury, has helped some 3,872 retirees access their pension, addressing a virtual meeting of Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) on Wednesday. She said up to September, the Auditor General’s Department received the files 3,959 retired public servants, of which they processed 3,872 files and returned those to the Treasury for payment to the pensioners.

She said her department and the Treasury had collaborated in a “big push” to help a “significant number” of pensioners.

“Give a push as much as possible within the financial year ending September 30, 2022 to try and clear out, so the pensioners would be in receipt of what they were duly required to receive.

“So that was a significant push in terms of the deliverables to try and ensure that those officers whose date of retirement was quite some time in the past were in fact in receipt of their pension.”

She said computational issues had delayed some public servants in receiving their due.

“While we still try to maintain a ‘first in-first out’ (policy), there is an analysis which is done where we try to see the files of officers that may be long outstanding or have some outstanding details, or have officers who have not received any pension at all, because we also do get a variety of pensions called revisions…

“Some are amendments, salary increases, incremental adjustments, these sort of things, so they would still have been in receipt of a pension, but they need to be revised because they need to get an amended pension.”

Pujadas said efforts were made to prioritise handling pensions for officers who were near retirement.

Member Lisa Morris-Julian asked the time frame for public servants to receive their pensions.

Ministry of Finance Comptroller of Accounts Catherine Laban said ministries should submit the personal details of public servants a year before their retirement date.

She said, “Unfortunately they are not all abiding.”

PAAC chairman Bridgid Annisette-George asked if some ministries were chronic defaulters in compliance.

Laban said yes. She recalled seeing trends, but said the Services Commission Department may use a disciplinary procedure to get permanent secretaries to act on time, or give them a verbal reminder.

Annisette-George asked about shortfalls which curtailed people getting state pensions.

Laban said the re-alignment of ministries was a big impediment to recording a compilation of public servants employment history.

However, Annisette-George said those had been the initial concerns of ministry re-alignment.

“So in my respectful view, we are not going back there. Those are a given. Given what challenges you have, how do we use our creativity, our will, our love for people, to improve the system?”

Saying some retirees seem privileged in accessing their pensions, Annisette-George asked how all retirees could be made privileged.

The protective services spelt out their pension processing issues.

Supt Clint Arthur of the finance branch of the police service (TTPS) said pension claims move from the Auditor General Department to the Comptroller of Accounts to be processed for the police finance branch to pay retirees. He said he wished to look into questions over whether the police have the capacity to process the claims.

Fire sub officer Seon Raphael queried a report by the auditor general department which lamented receiving 2,000 claims which had not first passed through the relevant internal audit department, with the Fire Service being named prominently in this.

He said, “I’ve been in the pensions department since 2005. Every pension and leave that is done by the Fire Service is audited by the Ministry of National Security audit department and then sent to the Auditor General’s Department.”

Prison officer II Glen De Verteuil lamented delays by the Service Commission Department in the process of pension approval.

Commander Anil Gosine of the Defence Force (TTDF) said the TTDF had produced a simple retirement guide so as to “arm our members with information.”