Private sector owes NIS EC$15 million
The private sector owes the National Insurance Services (NIS) approximately EC$15 million while the government does not owe the NIS any money.
This was stated by prime minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves while speaking on Star FM on Monday morning.
The Prime Minister made the statement following comments he said were made on radio by former leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace on radio about two weeks ago.
Gonsalves said he did not hear the statement himself, but was told about it, so he was issuing a public correction to Eustace’s comments that the government owes the NIS EC$23 million.
“The director of the NIS (Stewart Haynes) saw the report and drew my attention to it. It is a dastardly falsehood and I said to prepare a note and send to Eustace advising him of the error,” the Prime Minister said on Monday.
Gonsalves said he told Eustace that he had made an error and the information on Government contributions to the NIS has already been sent to the NDP.
“One of the things that this government does not do is play petty politics with the NIS,” stated Gonsalves who added that when he gave up responsibility for the NIS last year, he was the longest serving minister to hold responsibility for the NIS and there are several very praiseworthy advances that had been made between 2001 and 2018.
“We have paid to the NIS over $255 million,” said the Prime Minister who noted that this figure amounts to 37 per cent of all contributions made to the NIS.
“The note which has been sent to Eustace says that government is up to date and I am in good standing with the NIS. In 2018 the months of January to July…we have paid the sum of $12.97 million and that takes care of all the government’s contributions (up to that period),” Gonsalves revealed while adding that he is happy that Eustace is concerned about the NIS, but he (Gonsalves) is concerned that the statement was made without verification.
“He called on the trade unions to make a big issue of it in other words to make an issue of something that is false, and he denounced the media for not addressing the question,” added Gonsalves.
The Prime Minister said that in 2014, he went to Parliament and announced that the government was in arrears and explained what was being done while seeking parliamentary approval for correcting the issue of non-payment.
“I dealt with that four years ago, satisfactorily dealt with that,” said the Prime Minister while adding that he also paid 4.5 per cent interest on the delinquent amount although he was not required to do so.
Gonsalves added that the delinquency of the private sector is being dealt with according to law.
He said the government is responsible for money paid by private sector employees that is not paid over to the NIS.
“The government underwrites all payments to be made to the NIS. Once it is evident that the workers have paid and if the employers do not pay over, we by law are responsible for the workers’ money,” said Gonsalves who added that the law allows the NIS to collect money from delinquent private sector employers.
“Some private sector is in default and the NIS is dealing with it. Some [employers] are making arrangements, and some are recalcitrant, and I expect the NIS will address it with the powers at its disposal,” stated Gonsalves.