Editorial

If Dr Nigel Clarke keeps no other promise…

Thursday, September 27, 2018

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Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke has made a solemn pledge to government employees that they will begin to get their pension payments within one month of their retirement.

Beyond stating that there is a first draft of the enabling amendment Bill that was intended to be brought before Parliament within the 2019/20 financial year, Dr Clarke, regrettably, did not give a specific timeline for the implementation of his pledge.

He made this far-reaching promise, witnessed by the participants at the Victoria Mutual Pensions Management Retirement Seminar, which was staged in association with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica at the Spanish Court Hotel, St Andrew, on Tuesday, September 25, 2018.

We would like to challenge the minister to go back to the Spanish Court no later than September 25, 2019 to announce that the Finance Ministry is ready to start implementation of his proposal.

Dr Clarke, a young politician who has seen the many empty promises made by his predecessors, would understand that the real difference he can make is to do all he can to implement his promises.

The minister clearly understands the gravity of the situation, which is why he stated, without coercion, we believe, that: “Under the new Public Pension System, the aim of the GOJ is for public pensions to be processed within one month instead of over one year, as has historically been the case.

“When you retire from government service your last pay cheque must be followed by your first pension cheque the very next month. It will take some time to get there, but that is our goal,” he declared.

History will be kind to Dr Clarke if he succeeds in fulfilling this promise. Of course, we know that Rome was not built in a day. But the note of urgency in this space is explained by our great surprise in learning that State employees had to wait an entire year to start receiving pension payments.

We also admit our shock to hear that the current public pension system required navigation of over 30 separate pieces of legislation, which resulted in significant delays in the processing of pension payments.

“Additionally, without the appropriate software and systems, verification of retirement parameters such as length of service at various ministries, departments and agencies over the course of a long public service career has been manual and time consuming,” the minister revealed.

We are assured by Dr Clarke that his plan to fix this would be made possible through the efficiency gains from having a single Pensions (Public Service) Act governing public sector pensions and through the implementation of new Public Employees Pension Administration System (PEPAS) in the next financial year.

In addition, he stressed that the continued implementation of “MyHR Plus” — an integrated HR and Payroll System — since January 2018 and the PEPAS would lead to significant improvements in the administration and execution of the processing of pensions.

We can't image how retired government employees manage in the year between retirement and receipt of pension payments. May we humbly suggest that Dr Clarke could do better than a promise by giving retired employees a lump sum that can take them through the waiting period and later recouped from the pension.

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