Despite plans to do away with the pension book system and digitise the process, the Social Protection Ministry has announced that distribution of the 2019 senior citizens pension booklets will begin on Monday.The Ministry made this disclosure in a notice published in the daily newspapers. According to the notice, pensioners are expected to have their 2018 booklets as well as their National Identification (ID) Cards in order to be able to uplift the new booklets. This time around, the Ministry has also stipulated that all pensioners will be required to personally uplift their booklets, as no authorisation to uplift the booklet would be accepted.The notice stated, “We have made every effort to place distribution centres closet to pensioners. Kindly check the schedule carefully and present yourself at the distribution centre that covers your catchment areas”.Distribution of the new booklets will be facilitated from Monday between the hours of 09:00h and 14:00h at the more than 100 locations across the country, as was published. This year’s dispersal of pension books is likely to come to a halt by December 7.Director of Social Services, Wenthworth Tanner, was quoted by the Department of Public Information (DPI) as saying that the Ministry was working in collaboration with the Public Telecommunications Ministry to upgrade the system into an automated one.“…currently, the system is primarily manual. We want to get the system automated, and so that’s an ongoing process. We are continuing to work to get it on stream as soon as possible,” Tanner explained.The Social Services Director has said that an important aspect of the project will be the sanitisation of the old age pension database, which entails the removal of the names of deceased persons from the pension register. In this regard, he said, the Ministry is collaborating with the Office of the Registrar General and with funeral parlours, and based on information gathered, the old age pension database will be cleansed.On the issue of Guyanese residing overseas but receiving old age pension locally, Tanner said, “That is a bit more challenging, given how the pension system is currently set up; however, these are things that will be addressed once the system is automated.”The digitisation project is intended to ensure efficiency, accountability and transparency in the distribution of Old Age Pension. It will reduce the need for workers to search various documents in order to retrieve information. Probation officers will also be afforded more time to conduct fieldwork and visitations, DPI said.Back in July, when Guyana Times spoke with a reliable source at the Ministry, it was related that Government’s plans to digitise the system might be flopped, as a survey conducted found that most pensioners were against the new system.According to the source, the survey was conducted in the May/June period by the Telecommunications Ministry in collaboration with the Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC).“Based on the reports from the survey, most of the pensioners did not want the upgrade,” the source informed.It was further informed that, despite the findings from the survey, talks are ongoing for the upgrade.The Government had first revealed its plan for an electronic payment system for pensioners back in 2016. The system was intended to have pensioners uplift their monthly allocations through the local banks.Assistant Chief Probation and Social Services Officer Ricardo Banwarie had explained back then that it is a system wherein pensioners would sign the coupon in the booklet and access their cash. The pensioners’ information would be entered into the data base of the GPOC in order that a record of pensioners might be kept in the system.“Added to that, we will be having the agents for persons who are shut-ins, persons who are not capable of going to the Post Office to uplift their pensions. We will be able to have the names of the persons who are going to be authorised to uplift the pension on behalf of the pensioner in our data base,” Banwarie explained.The then Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence, had in 2016 told the National Assembly that the new electronic payment system would be implemented in 2017.
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