MSDFS assures no reduction in senior citizens’ pension

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MSDFS assures no reduction in senior citizens’ pension

The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services has assured that there has been no reduction in the Senior Citizens’ Pension.

The Ministry, in response to a media report, said the figure stated was only the initial allocation and will be increased based on the need for it.

“The Ministry is obligated to respond to these statements, not only to correct the public record, but also to assure our staff members, clients and stakeholders that there is no leadership crisis in the Ministry; the findings of the Auditor General are being adequately dealt with by the Ministry; and there has been absolutely no adverse reduction in the grants paid to senior citizens.

“The Ministry wants to state emphatically that there has been no reduction in the Senior Citizens Pension, as erroneously stated in the article. In fact, the said Auditor General’s Report, (Pg. 84, para 3.9) states that in 2021 the Senior Citizens’ Pension received a total allocation of $4,237,525,733, which represented an increase of $418,315,156 over its estimate of $3,819.210,577.

“In 2022, the Ministry was allocated $3,926,675, which was later increased to $4,316,675, an increase of some $390,000,000 or 9.9 per cent to meet its expenditure for that year.

“For fiscal 2023, the Ministry was allocated $4,118,000,000, which is $182,000,000 less than the total amount allocated the previous year.”

“The writer mistakenly assumed that this was a reduction in provision, but it is in fact only the initial allocation provided by the Ministry of Finance. As with the previous fiscal years, this allocation will be increased based on the need for it, given the initiatives that are currently being executed by the Ministry to eliminate fraud, wastage and duplication.”

The Ministry said it realised savings after removing dead people from the register.

“The public is asked to note however, that the Ministry did realise efficiency savings as a result of an exercise to remove dead persons from the register, resulting in a reduction in the number of persons eligible to receive the Senior Citizens Pension.

The Ministry said there is no leadership crisis.

“The Leadership of the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, is for the most part, public officers who are well-schooled in the policies, legislation and regulations of the public service. Like other Government Ministries, the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services has been building its leadership team and closing any identified gaps or deficiencies through ongoing training, mentoring and performance management.

“In circumstances where it is necessary to recruit externally, leaders are selected after a rigorous recruitment and selection process and are subject to regular performance appraisals.”

The Ministry said it has noted the comments of the Auditor General’s 2021 Report on fraud and continues to engage with her office on these matters.

Since the publication of the Report, the Ministry said it responded by Management Letter dated May 12, 2022 to each item raised by the Auditor General and has also reported to the JSC that many of the issues reported were related to systemic or human error and are being promptly addressed.

“To deal with the matters that were deemed error, fraudulent or corrupt, the Ministry has embarked upon several initiatives including a data cleansing exercise, to remove duplication and erroneous records. It also established a Reconciliation Unit to resolve any transactional discrepancies and an Investigation and Compliance Unit, staffed with Investigators, Financial Analysts, Cybercrime Specialists, Compliance, Legal and Quality Assurance Officers, who are authorised to investigate any alleged fraudulent or corrupt practices within the Ministry.

“Matters have also been referred to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) for investigation, so that anyone found culpable will face the full brunt of the law.

“Our digitalisation initiatives will add to the Ministry’s arsenal of tools by overcoming the exploitation of systemic weaknesses related to manual operating systems and promoting greater efficiency. In addition, the piloting of the Citizen Engagement and Outreach Service in May 2022 and the One-stop-shop Social Service Empowerment Units (SSE); to come on stream later this year, will enhance the quality of customer service delivered to our clients.

“Further, the Ministry is conducting an assessment of each grant it administers and reviewing the applicable legislation to close loopholes that are open to exploitation.”

“The Ministry thanks its management and staff for their commitment to the vulnerable in Trinidad and Tobago and assures the national community that it is open for business, and is diligently pressing forward – helping, empowering and transforming lives, while ensuring that no one is left behind.”