Following the publication of the names of several prominent individuals who have not paid their National
Insurance Scheme (NIS) contributions over a lengthy period, there has been a rush to settle the payments.
The Ministry of Finance on Wednesday released the Forensic Audit report of NIS, which says that over $2.5 billion is outstanding by contributors who have not paid their dues but have been submitting monthly returns. The report was prepared by auditor Ramesh Seebaran.
While the report stated that several companies and businesses, many of which are no longer in existence, have not been making the payments, it also outlined that several individuals, too, have been for whatever reasons, failing to pay their contributions.
Among those persons named on the defaulters list is Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman and Opposition parliamentarians Anil Nandlall and Pauline Sukhai. According to the auditor, Trotman is in debt of $554,850, while Sukhai has a debt of $1.6 million and Nandlall with a debt of $4.4 million.
However on Friday, the Natural Resources Minister was quick to settle his debt, which he said he was not aware of. Moreover, he sought to explain that the outstanding monies is what is owed personally by him.
“Minister Trotman was not aware that he had been in default and this morning met with a representative of the National Insurance Scheme to clarify the matter. Minister Trotman was advised that the matter does not relate to remitting NIS contributions for any staff member of his, but rather, pertain to his personal contributions whilst he was in law practice,” a statement from Imran Khan, Director of Public Information, Prime Minister’s Office, detailed.
The release added that further verifications will be conducted but nevertheless Trotman immediately made a payment, and upon completion of the verification there is expected to be an offset.
“Minister Trotman has always complied with the legal requirements and ensured that contributions for his staff at his legal practice have been duly paid.”
Meanwhile, when contacted Friday, Nandlall told Guyana Times that while he has not settled his contributions, he will be doing so in the near future. “I will settle the outstanding contributions shortly,” he stated.
The former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister explained that the money outstanding is what was accumulated over the period of time he was a minister. He noted that he had always assumed that his NIS contributions were being deducted from his government salary.
“I belatedly learnt that Ministers are to pay NIS contributions as self-employed and that government does not make the payments,” he added.
On the other hand, the former Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai, related to this newspaper that she too will be settling her outstanding contributions soon but has not made any payments as yet.
Furthermore, Seebaran in his report revealed that some 42 debtors were identified, with each of them owing in excess of $4 million, amounting to $686,781,422.
In addition, a debt of $168 million was recorded in NIS’ audited financial statements for 2013, however, part of it dates back to 2001.
“Included in this amount, is a balance of $116M owed by the Ministry of Finance and an amount of $38M which represents dishonoured cheques from contributors. Further, over $20M of the $38M are in excess of five years. Management has advised that these balances were referred to the Guyana Police Force but were sent back to the Scheme to be dealt with under their debt recovery policy,” the report stated.
The auditor advised that the board of directors have to determine whether the sundry receivable balance should not be impaired.
Moreover, it was found that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is the largest defaulter with an indebtedness of over $1.5 billion. According to Seebaran, the Operations Manager presented a list of receivables totalling $1,091,172,705 at August 2015 which does not include GuySuCo whose indebtedness is $1,574,283,889 for the period September 2014 to April 2015.
The audited report outlined that though a 2011 actuarial review reported that 40 per cent of the informal sector workforce is not contributing to the Scheme, the current system is not designed to determine the actual or near actual contributions from employers/self-employed/employees that are not registered.
It was observed that during visits to NIS branches across the country, it was reported that the Scheme has limited human resources to cover the areas that fall within the jurisdiction of each office. The auditor said the Operations Manager informed that no report was ever done on the potential loss of contributions from self-employed and employees not contributing to the Scheme.
Back in 2014, there were discussions on a draft Debt Management Policy which resulted in the formation of a document titled ‘Procedure for Debt Management Unit’ prepared in August 2014 but has not been approved for implementation to date.
On this note, the auditor recommends the establishment of both a proper Debt Management Unit with adequate staff and resources to effectively pursue defaulters and a legal department since at the moment, management only engages lawyers for significant cases. This practice severely hampers its debt collection abilities.