Editorials

Automated processing of pension will tame cartels

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National Treasury building. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The Pensions Department has no doubt been among the most graft-prone public institutions for many decades.
  • Several past investigations by the anti-corruption agency have uncovered deep-rooted ineptitude and corruption in this department, which has over the years predestined thousands of retired civil servants to poverty and hopelessness.
  • From payments to ghost retirees to deliberate delays in processing payouts, cartels at the Pensions Department have deployed multiple tactics either to steal from pensioners or squeeze bribes from them.

The Pensions Department has no doubt been among the most graft-prone public institutions for many decades.

Several past investigations by the anti-corruption agency have uncovered deep-rooted ineptitude and corruption in this department, which has over the years predestined thousands of retired civil servants to poverty and hopelessness.

From payments to ghost retirees to deliberate delays in processing payouts, cartels at the Pensions Department have deployed multiple tactics either to steal from pensioners or squeeze bribes from them.

For example, an incident is on record whereby the department purportedly sent Sh79 million to pensioners in the UK in the fiscal year 2005/6 without supporting documents — contrary to the provisions of the public financial management laws.

The sector has also been infiltrated by “brokers” who worked with the Pensions Department officers to defraud retirees of their benefits. The crooks are known to hide files only to return them after desperate retirees part with bribes. The brokers also demand tokenism to help move files through various levels of approval.

In extreme cases, members of staff even leaked information on payments meant for pensioners, including amounts to be paid and the accounts where the cash would be channelled to — leaving the retirees a soft target for fraud.

It is, therefore, welcoming to note that the Treasury now seeks to automate submission and processing of pension claims — a move that will minimise person-to-person contact and expedite payment of pension within a month.

This big in that person-to-person contacts encourage corruption, thanks to deliberate scheming by cartels keen on reaping from the frustrations of retirees who are unable to receive their money quickly enough.

The Treasury admits that the current system of handling claims is deeply reliant on the movement of voluminous hardcopies of pension papers from one office to another leading to financial and mental suffering for retirees on delayed receipt of their benefits.

As usual, cartels always resist change but the State must not lose sight of the gains of an automated pension payment system. It is time to migrate all pensions payments from the current graft prone manual system.