Solving the records mess in the GSIS

Published by rudy Date posted on April 5, 2011

NOW that Winston Garcia is no longer the president and general manager of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) there is hope that the problem of non-payment of pensions and pension delays would eventually be solved, and hopefully soonest.

The problem of pension delays has become very serious, with no less than President Aquino recognizing the issue during his election campaign.

Recently it was reported that many retiring teachers failed to get their retirement benefits anew despite having fully paid their premiums.

The House committee on good government and public accountability had previously conducted a hearing and found out that some 198,967 teachers and other employees of the Department of Education are at risk of losing their contributions to their pension funds.

The Department of Education admitted that it failed to meet the February 28 deadline set by the GSIS for updating and reconciling service records of their personnel.

As a result, the GSIS will consider the outdated records as valid even if it puts the teachers at a disadvantage.

The teachers have been the most vocal about GSIS failures and rightly so. The 500,000 DepEd employees (both teaching and non-teaching personnel) comprise more than one-third of the 1.2 million total membership of the GSIS. Teachers give P375 million in monthly contributions or P4.5 billion in annual contributions to the state pension fund.

In 2009, the Civil Service Commission did a nationwide survey of GSIS concerns in the bureaucracy and among the main problems cited were delayed and/or reduced pensions; discrepancies in remittance records of premium and loan payments, for which members were denied salary loans or incorrectly incurred arrears; and phantom borrowings (members who never borrowed turned out to have loans).

A CSC-GSIS joint task force was created to solve these problems. What solutions and remedial actions were taken? Also, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued an EO making the CSC chairman an ex-officio board member of Pag-Ibig, PhilHealth and the GSIS. But does the CSC chairman now sit on the GSIS board?
The GSIS computerization project undertaken by Garcia administration was supposed to reconcile records and make recordkeeping easier but it failed. The GSIS system supposedly crashed in March 2009. The IBM and the GSIS had a public feud about it, exchanging blame.

These discrepancies have led to unjust deductions from members’ benefits. What’s worse is that when members seek a refund or correction of their records they are told by their local GSIS that it is dependent on the existing computer system in the central office, which is unreliable because of the systems failure.

Open and honest communication between state pension fund officials and their biggest membership is the right way to go about things.

When retirees don’t get their pension on time, they don’t care about the excuses for the delay though. They will simply suspect that their pensions have been stolen one way or the other, or that GSIS does not have the money, and is simply stalling payments. After all, if you have a duty to pay a monthly pension, and you have the money to pay it, you will find a way to make the payment, regardless of any defects in the system.

Government people are a patient lot. They are used to the slow, grinding process of the bureaucracy. But patience has its limits.

When all that is keeping a retired government worker afloat is his meager monthly pension, and even that is delayed or reduced, patience is the last thing on his or her mind. When GSIS members can’t avail of the salary loan that would mean their kids’ tuition, they don’t want to hear an explanation. They want action.

You have an accumulation of such unanswered grievances, and you have the crisis of credibility that afflicts the GSIS today.  –ERNESTO F. HERRERA, Manila Times

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