The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services has investigated 61 reports that persons under the age of 65 years were collecting senior citizens’ grants (national pension).
That’s according to the Ministry’s Head of the Investigations and Compliance Unit Rhonda Francis on Wednesday.
Francis was at the time responding to questions during a Public Accounts Committee hearing – ‘Examinations of the concerns raised in the Report of the Auditor General on the public accounts of T&T, for the financial year 2021, with specific reference to the administering of government grants.’
Chairman of the committee, Davindranath Tancoo highlighted the issue and asked for clarification on data where there were 108 instances found where recipients of senior citizens’ pension ages ranged from 27 to 64 years.
According to Francis, out of the 61 cases investigated so far, there were 49 cases of “input errors.”
“For example, if a person was born in 1939, there was an input error of 1993. We still have others that are under investigation at present,” she said.
Asked by Tancoo how many people were therefore found to be illegitimately receiving the pension, Francis said, this was not the case.
“We were able to clearly identify that 49 were input errors and we are still investigating the errors,” she reiterated.
Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary Jacqueline Johnson admitted that the Ministry has its data challenges as it relates to updating and cleaning up clients’ files.
“And therefore a lot of data cleansing has to be done now to that data in order to move it to the new system… and we have engaged in data cleansing since 2021 to clean up the current database.”
Asked when the data would be updated and made current, the PS said at present there is work ongoing including the referencing of manual files and that by January 2023, the system should be a bit more solid.
“We will continue to use our business intelligence system on the new platform to ensure that all the data is properly cleansed that is an option we have with the new system, to use the business intelligence we have to see where there are gaps in the data.”
Noting that this was the main issue picked up in the auditor general’s report, Johnson admitted that the current system does not allow business intelligence to identify such gaps.
Asked for an update on the queries process for applications by Tancoo, the PS said that too is being taken care of while the data cleansing is being done.
“While it may sound very straightforward, we have some challenges inside of there. We have to locate the manual files, some of these files are going back to the 60s and 70s and some of those people are still pensioners. We have to verify data, we have to ask the clients in some cases to come to us so that we could properly populate the database.”
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