Morrison urges pension policy review

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

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TRADE union leader Vincent Morrison says the Government should review its policy of nullifying pension benefits for people who walk off the job in the public service.

“I would want to believe that that is pretty harsh. Although the scheme is non-contributory, it's a benefit that accrues to you as a result of the fact that you're employed. I think that should be reviewed [and] should be subject to further discussion between the unions and the authorities,” Morrison told the Jamaica Observer.

The observation comes against the background of discussions surrounding the $983 million allocated in the Government's first supplementary budget for the public sector early retirement programme.

During a review of the report at a recent Public Administration and Appropriations Committee meeting, Wayne Jones, deputy financial secretary in the Strategic Human Resource Management Division of the finance ministry, explained that there are a number of reasons why some people experience long delays in receiving their pensions, and that in some instances certain individuals are not in fact entitled to a pension.

“Having served 10 years with one permanent appointment in a pensionable post, you become eligible for a pension when you get to age 60. If you leave the service, let's say after 15 years, you would have been vested, but if you leave without formal separation, when you get to that age when you would have been able to claim for a deferred pension and the Public Service Commission checks your records and don't see that resignation, it could be deemed that you abandoned your job and you therefore have forfeited your pension,” he outlined.

Jones further stressed that if a person leaves the system before retirement age and waits until they are 60 years old to apply for pension, the governor general could deem that person as having abandoned their job, and hence not entitled to pension.

“We see a number of those coming forward. The authority of approval of pension must come from His Excellency, via the Public Service Commission, for us to be able to process that pension. There are reasons behind persons not receiving their pensions sometimes that the ministry has nothing to do with,” he stated.

Meanwhile, he further explained that there have been significant improvements in the turnaround time for pension payouts, with the current period being four months from the date of the full application. “But bear in mind that the disbursement arm is the Accountant General's Department, and then there is another leg of the process that has to go through there, including the pensioner having to provide banking information and so on,” he said. He added that with the new public employees pension administration system, which is now in place, the target is to reduce the turnaround time to one month after a person's last pay cheque

The system automates the public sector pension reform business to allow for efficient pension benefit claims and payouts. It is supposed to provide for timely processing of pension applications and disbursement of benefits, as well as assist the Government in more accurately preparing budgets; and reduce manual operations throughout the administration process. Public servants should also be able to view their pension records.

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