Over $400M in NIS not paid for T&HD staff between 2015 & 2020 – Min Edghill

– slams APNU/AFC for lagging road works
– says PPP/C not slowing down

Budget debates continued on Wednesday with Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill, revealing that under the former Government, over $400 million in National Insurance Scheme (NIS) contributions were not paid for staff at the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD).
According to Minister Edghill, under his tenure, they were forced to pay $470 million in arrears to the Scheme. This is because contributions to NIS were not remitted for Transport and Harbours Department staff between 2015 and 2020.

Public Works Minister Juan Edghill

“When we came to Government, the Transport and Habours Department was one of the departments that were struggling. Let me explain: For the period 2015 to 2020, no NIS contributions were made for the staff of the Transport and Harbours Department. I am pleased to announce, Mr. Speaker, that the arrears of $470 million have been paid off, and any staff at the Transport and Harbours Department can now get their benefits. And that is what the PPP/C Government has done for the people of Guyana,” Edghill further said.
Nor is that all. According to Edghill, even the union dues were not being remitted on behalf of T&HD workers. This, too, has since been corrected by the PPP/C Government. The Minister, meanwhile, also spoke of development. For instance, just last year, 520 kilometres of roads were completed.
“I would not do justice to my team at the Ministry of Public Works if I did not say congratulations to our Special Projects Unit. In 2020, in our Maintenance of Roads programme, we did 175 kilometres of roads,” Edghill explained. “In 2021, we did 420 kilometres. In 2022, we did 520 kilometres. Are you seeing the magnitude of what is taking place as it relates to Guyana’s development? In terms of rehabilitation of main access roads, we did 6 kilometres in 2020. In 2021, we did 15 kilometres. In 2022, we did 23 kilometres.”
When it comes to the overall roads programme, Edghill laid out how much expenditure on roads has increased under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, as opposed to what was spent under the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC).
“In the Overall Roads Programme, which includes miscellaneous, hinterland, farm to market (and) main access roads, in the 56 months that the APNU/AFC was in office, they appropriated and spent $52 billion… $52 billion in 56 months. The same people who are complaining about roads need to be fixed. In 28 months, the PPP/C has appropriated and expended $83.9 billion.
“While I’m hearing the heckling, it’s the same engineers and people there for 56 months is there for 28 months, but they are delivering because they have visionary leadership. They are delivering because they understand where Guyana needs to go! They understand that there’s a Government, and not looking after themselves. That’s the difference!” Edghill further said.
Meanwhile, Edghill had a defiant message for the Opposition: that notwithstanding their criticism, the Government has no intention of slowing down. As he put it, “Someone wants to mash brakes, but we mashing accelerator.”
Last week, the PPP/C Government presented its largest-ever budget, a record $781.9 billion budget financed for the first time by both oil and climate funds, which contains a number of wide-ranging provisions.
During his presentation of Budget 2023, Senior Minister with Responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh, had reported that NIS was able to dispose of nearly half of its backlog in some two years. He had commended the NIS and its Board for the large reduction in pending NIS claims since the PPP/C returned to office.
“As of August 2020, the backlog of claims outstanding and on query was 20,106. It is encouraging that as of December 2022, the backlog was reduced to 10,902. Further, of the 1,362,734 [suspended] and invalid numbers existing in the database, the Scheme was able to resolve 1,103,835 during 2022,” Dr Singh had stated.
The NIS has historically been the provider of social security when earnings are interrupted by illness or accident, for exceptional expenses related to birth or death, and for retirement by age. In fact, for many pensioners, this is their only source of income.