Biometric vetting to cut NSSA fraud
Felex Share Senior Reporter—
The National Social Security Authority has introduced biometric vetting for pensioners as it moves to ensure benefits are paid to deserving beneficiaries. The authority has also engaged mobile operators for it to use their financial services platforms to pay benefits to pensioners and save them from travelling long distances to access their payouts. This comes as 44 000 pensioners failed to receive their April payouts last week after NSSA suspended payments for failing to submit life certificates proving that they are alive.
NSSA chairman Mr Robin Vela said the honeymoon was over for people who were undeservedly receiving pension payouts. “The board started a process of auditing the payment of benefits on an improved, multiple verification base and on a frequent basis,” he said.
“Biometric equipment has been delivered and NSSA will start the process of inputting pensioners’ biometric information in the system. Beneficiaries will be required, on a period basis, to attend a NSSA facility, in person, to enable verification of their eligibility. This process will assist greatly in removing all undeserving recipients of NSSA funds from the benefits register.”
NSSA caters for about 180 000 pensioners. Mr Vela said NSSA continued verifying beneficiaries through the issuance of life certificates, a development that saw the 44 000 pensioners being frozen out last month. “Life certificates are a critical part of a verification system to avoid abuse, potential fraud and to maintain the integrity of the pension system,” he said.
“Unfortunately some pensioners did not respond to the call, made through various media channels, to come forward and submit their certificates as proof that they are still living. Affected pensioners have since had their pensions re-activated. NSSA will seek ways to reach out via all available channels to members and pensioners.”
He added: “A further major challenge for the authority was that pensioners would give Automated Teller Machine cards and access to their bank accounts to their relatives who would continue drawing pensions even after the pensioner’s death. The public is reminded that it is a criminal offence to access pensioners’ benefits whether they are still alive or deceased. NSSA continues to investigate and prosecute offenders.”
He said there was need for pensioners to access their payouts without difficulties. “The board also recognises the need to be innovative and also embrace, use mobile banking and technology to pay pensions,” Mr Vela said.
“Mobile operators have been engaged to provide use of their platforms for the payment of benefits at pensioners’ convenience and at reasonable transaction costs. It is hoped that the engagements with the mobile operators will remove the need for pensioners to travel long distances, at great cost, to collect their pensions.
“NSSA is also giving consideration, in an environment with declining formal employment, to the introduction of a fund or social security offering for informal sector voluntary contributors.” Mr Vela said NSSA had found a new general manager and other executives to fill in vacant posts.
The names of successful candidates, he said, would be disclosed soon. “The board has settled on a balanced, qualified and experienced team of professionals whom we believe will be able to discharge the mandate of setting the authority on a path of improved delivery, accountability and transparency,” he said.