One issue which has resurfaced coming out of the recent miscommunication by the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) to pensioners is the unavailability of a recent NIS certified financial report. A check of the NIS Website shows the most recent financials posted as at 2007. Governments over the years have always borrowed from the NIS fund but the current economic hardship has forced the government to lean on the fund in an unprecedented way; or so it seems.
The importance of the NIS to the stability of a Barbados society cannot be underscored enough. Why should Barbadians in 2011 not expect our government to implement necessary systems to ensure a timely certified financial statement of the NIS fund? Barbadians need, as a matter of urgency, to leverage the education provided to us. One way which we can do so is to hold our government and others who hold public office more accountable. The fact that this government and others gone before continue to hoodwink Barbadians by dillydallying over the implementation of Freedom of Information (FOI) and Integrity Legislation are two good examples.
Barbadians should note carefully the strategic goals of the NIS:
- To ensure timely processing of benefits
- To maximise compliance in terms of collection and achieve full compliance
- To maximise return on investment for the Fund
- To ensure efficient world-class customer service
- To establish a cadre of competent, efficient and highly motivated work force
- To improve internal and external communication at the Board
Item 6 is of special interest in light of the recent communications fiasco which has embarrassed the NIB, Minister Byer-Suckoo and by extension the government. More importantly the role of the NIS Board to realize item 3 is difficult for the public to measure because of the unavailability of current certified financials. The explanation offered by government spokesmen that in the low interest rate environment which is prevailing investments in public projects offer the best opportunity for better yields is a risky policy.
The NIB is headed by retired banker Tony Marshall, head of management studies at UWI, Cave Hill Justin Robinson and others who are highly qualified to know what is required of managing Barbados’ most important fund. We need more transparency in how the NIS is being managed and if the public is to judge by the fiasco which reared its head last week, we should become very concerned.