Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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NIS
(Aired 24 August 2001)

    I, like everyone else, love my mother, like me, my mother [now 75] does not have much patience with stupidity, now it appears that she went into the NIS with one of her domestics who had a baby in July this year, but was getting a hard time to obtain her benefits, my mother got mad and told them that if the benefits were not forthcoming immediately, she will tell the evening news and ME about it...., THAT apparently got some response, but it prompted me to look at our NIS, and I did not like what I found.

    In this country we are required by LAW to pay NIS..... The employer is required to pay 7.2 percent of all their employees' salaries and the employee is required to pay 4.8 %, so 12 % of our gross salary package must be paid to the NIS.

   Now ladies and gentlemen the NIS is the biggest money making machine in this country with revenues and assets in the tens if not hundreds of billions.... But what do our workers get from it?

    Well I have discovered that it might just be the biggest scam in the history of this country.

   I have divided my problems with the NIS into 7 heads laid out in the simplest way I can find to do it for you.

1.      You are 19 years old, you begin working in some office as a clerk, the possibility of a serious injury is practically nil, but you and your employer have to pay 12% of your total salary to an organization which will, after you retire, having paid it 12% of your total income for the entire 41 years of your employment, gives you nothing if you get sick after retiring, unless you are declared ill before you retire at age 60.

2.      You, a worker in an office exposed to absolutely no danger whatsoever, as compared to someone who is working in say a sawmill or a sugar worker using a cutlass daily, have to pay exactly the same insurance 4.8% of your total wage package. And when you do this for over 40 years and you retire, and let us face it, you are far more likely to become sick after 60 than before, you have nowhere to turn.

3.       But let us say that you do become ill during the years you are employed and the illness you have cannot be treated HERE, heart attack, stroke, blood clot on the brain, Cancer, believe it or not they will only be paying you a maximum of 2500 US dollars, how is this US 2500 paid? YOU have to obtain their permission to go abroad, YOU have to submit yourself to the NIS doctors, THEN you have to wait for the NIS board to MEET, WHENEVER that is....     THEN you will be given permission to seek medical help overseas, THEN you have to go overseas at your own expense and after you are treated, you can THEN submit all the relevant documentation and you will be reimbursed. Now the major beneficiaries of NIS are supposed to be our poorer workers, where are they supposed to find the resources to go overseas for treatment? It is in fact, a sentence of death; the procedure alone to obtain permission to go abroad for treatment is so protracted and onerous that it amounts, to a sentence of death. Were our NIS DELIBERATELY designed to dispossess the poor workers of this country, it could not have been more effectively drafted.

Let me pause here before proceeding to NO 4 and tell you what I did, I called CLiCO, I told them that I have 20 employees and I would like them to be fully insured for all illnesses/injury up to 20,000 US dollars each, the insurance company informed me that if I paid 15-18 HUNDRED GUYANA dollars per EMPLOYEE per MONTH, the following will be their benefits, if they get ill, all local expenses at any local medical institution will be met, if they require treatment abroad, they get a referral from a doctor here and then the insurance company will contact Mt. Hope hospital in Trinidad with whom this insurance company has a credit arrangement, and tell them that you are coming, you present yourself to Mount Hope with the necessary documentation and you are treated. You do not have to find one cent from your pocket apart from your passage for any of this, when you return here after treatment you present all your bills for travelling, hotels etc and you are reimbursed...... or you pay the difference if you have spent more than 20,000 US dollars. This insurance company also has an arrangement through a large international organization called MEDEX, ladies and gentlemen, IF you my employee with this group medical plan, and you are on holiday in New York or Timbuktu and you get ill this insurance covers all medical expenses. I have 20 employees, we, they and I, pay NIS over $85,000 per month, if I were to take out this insurance for far more benefits, it would only cost THEM and me 36,000 G per month. Now ladies and gentle men I want you to listen to this carefully, For an extra $700 G per month a total of $50,000 per month for all of my 20 employees this insurance will not only cover my employees against illness/injury but ALL of their family members as well.

4.      After being in existence for over 30 years, our NIS has no such recroprocal credit arrangement with any medical facility in the world. And only employees are covered. No member of his or her family is ever covered. How is it possible that this huge orginisation which takes 12 percent of all wages paid to our citizens, does not have a relationship with any major health care facility in the world??

5.      In 1993 Dr. Cheddie Jagan,.... Poor Dr. Cheddie he was trying with all of this rascality for a long time, it probably speeded up his demise,.... He instructed and it was passed in our parliament, that AS an amendment to our financial administrative and audit act, all state owned institutions should be audited by the Auditor General's office, NIS is such an institution but the board of the NIS whose chairman is DR. Roger Luncheon, has informed us that the 1993 law is not applicable to NIS. The result is that the NIS has not presented an audited account to the parliament and its owners, the people of this country, in over 7 years, and I believe that they are in breach of the laws of this country. But what is most important, is that we the people of this country, have absolutely no idea what the NIS is collecting, what it is paying out, and what happens to the profits. I am forced to ask again why all the secrecy? It is well known that Mr. Carl Greenidge when minister of finance, was dissatisfied with the audit of the NIS affairs by private auditors and he asked the auditor General's office and Doloite and Touche to audit them.   

  Does anyone remember the recycling of benefits claims scandal, and the huge furore that resulted from that?  The NIS is a state institution which should operate under section 48 of our COFA act, since IF it runs into trouble financially, it has to be met from the Consolidated Fund, so it must submit itself to the Auditor General's scrutiny. Even if they do not submit to the Auditor Generals audit, the law establishing the NIS the National Insurance and Social Security Act chapter 36.01, says that the NIS board will prepare and submit BY JUNE of each year a report on all of its activities and that the Minister to whom it is given will present the report in our parliament. In more than 7 years we have not seen ONE. So WE must demand it. Where else on this planet would any government dare to perpetrate such an atrocity on its people and get away with it.

6.      Our ministers of course do not have the restrictions placed on them as the rest of the populace does US 2500 for any illness requiring treatment abroad. If they have to get extra benefits why doesn't the Government take out a Group medical insurance policy on them? Why do our taxes have to carry the financial burden of them going to the US to treat a common cold?

7.      And where are the enormous revenues from the NIS going? Is it going to the medical institutions in this country to give our workers better medical facilities? NO.,Is it going to ensure that better benefits are given to our workers who are so ill that they have to go abroad? NO! Is it being used to give our workers a better pension, NO! It is being invested in NBIC and other businesses; it is being used to give large loans to private local or expatriate companies at lending rates, which are lower than the commercial banks. I will not call the names of the companies involved, they have every right to borrow from whosoever they want to, especially if it is less interest than the rest of us are paying, it is called business sense.

  Now before I am accused of not presenting the entire picture, let me say this, if you are injured in an industrial accident requiring treatment abroad there is no restriction on the amount of benefits you can receive from NIS and our private insurance plan does not cover that kind of industrial injury requiring unlimited funds overseas, but you tell me, when last have we hard of an industrial injury which required treatment abroad costing more than 20,000 US dollars? And in the absence of an audit of the NIS accounts for over 7 years, I am saying that apart from the soldier who was shot by blackie in the eye, there were none. But remember that this CLICO plan covers our employees up to 20,000 US dollars for sickness or injury, As for the NIS pension, ridiculous is the only way to describe it given the 12% salary payment our people are required to pay, if we paid any insurance company a similar amount we would have a pension that would be worth collecting. So our NIS has failed its people and is continuing to do so, they are taking our money and they are killing our POORER citizens who need it the most. This is just my first impression of how the NIS is run; if I can see the audited report of the NIS I can tell you more. I must now apologize to GP&L, compared to our NIS, you people are saints.