It was announced in the House of Assembly on Tuesday 8 April, 2014 that political interference was a factor in the Social Security Board’s (SSB) inability to collect outstanding receivables.
The announcement was made by First District Representative, and Opposition Member, Hon. Andrew Fahie during his contribution to the National Health Insurance Bill.
The Legislator told the House: “Social Security has trouble collecting their money, millions of dollars right now is on the street, guaranteed….(but) the political interference to get to those who are not paying is great, what will make the National Health Insurance scheme any different?”
Hon. Fahie told the House: “Social Security right now has problems collecting their money and everything is in place legally to get it. Everything is in place legally to go after those they need to go after to get it. If I am speaking anything that is not so, I stand corrected and may God strike me down if I say anything just now that wasn’t so.”
The situation of outstanding Social Security revenue was highlighted in a report that was tabled in the House of Assembly on 19 November 2013. The document stated that in 2012 some eight Social Security related cases were heard before the Appeal Tribunal and it was divulged that in seven of those cases the decision of the Director was upheld and the appeal denied. However, it was stated that the Tribunal ruled in favour of one of the appellant.
Four cases were settled in 2012 at the attorney’s stage without actual court action, and as of 31 December 2012, 858 defaulters owed the board approximately $5,654,970. Nonetheless, it was noted that the Board was able to collect $7,475,805 in outstanding contributions.
It was further mentioned that a large portion of the figure was collected in the final quarter of that year and that the collection success was attributed to the Board’s identification of employers who received government contracts over a 10-year period and had not paid the relevant social security contributions.
Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser during his contribution to the debate on Tuesday explained that perhaps many of the employers who are delinquent with their Social Security payment were not wilful, but honestly could not afford to make the payments.
Unfortunately, Hon. Fraser’s point seems buried under many reports that delinquent employers have been deducting contributions but not making contributions to the Board. The issue of such deductions were made known to Director of the SSB, Mrs. Antoinette Skelton during a meeting NHI consultative meeting that was held in March 2013.
At that time a resident who announced that he is aware of common deduction dishonesty said: “There are a lot of bosses in the BVI who are taking out people’s social security and they are not paying it, and when you have problems and you go to Social Security they tell you that you are not covered. So what is the social security doing to collect those moneys?”
The Board Director added: “I am not embarrassed to say that we have paid benefits to persons from whom we have not received contributions, and we seek to recover them. We go to court and we were in court up to this week and we have never lost a case.”
At a February 2012, meeting in Virgin Gorda Minister of Natural Resources and Labour Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering told the residents: “It is important for everyone to understand, that if you work and you have proof that monies were deducted from your salary for Social Security, when you are entitled to benefits then Social Security will pay you.”
“Once you can prove your pay check shows that you are working for John Brown, and he has been taking Social Security payments out of your checks…Social Security has the authority to investigate that person. And if necessary bring him to court to collect and correct that situation. That’s in the law and that will be taken care of, but the important thing is this, as an employee you ought to have proof, you just can’t go word to mouth,” Hon. Pickering added.