Public Services and National Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
NATIONAL Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle yesterday issued a warning to all unqualified individuals who may have received unemployment assistance cheques from the agency, urging them to return the payments as NIB officials “are looking extensively” at all transactions made by employees. His warning comes amid an ongoing theft investigation at one of NIB’s branches.
Speaking to reporters before yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Mr Rolle said officials are constantly on the lookout for fraudulent activities happening within the agency.
In view of this, the minister urged all participants involved in any fraudulent NIB schemes to return the payments, suggesting it’s only a matter of time before they are caught.
“... There’s a fraud unit at NIB that is doing exactly that, that is looking at the benefits, looking at payments and responding and talking to NIB and the director every single day on what’s happening,” he said.
“... Individuals are to be warned that we are looking extensively and diligently at cheques and payments to individuals and those individuals who may have received cheques that they don’t qualify for should return them to NIB.”
Asked if the public can expect to see similar actions being taken with companies that have failed to pay NIB contributions on behalf of their workers, the minister replied in the affirmative.
Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of employees have criticised their employers on learning that contributions deducted from their salaries had not been passed to NIB.
Officials have previously said the agency will deal with those companies as necessary.
Yesterday, Mr Rolle told reporters: “Yes, individuals who have collected monies from their employees and who have not provided monies to NIB, we are actively engaged in not only calling out these companies but encouraging them and to some degree forcing them and internally dealing with these matters at the moment.
“But, if you take an individual’s money and propose to send it in at NIB and you don’t, then that individual also has an obligation to make it known but what NIB has done and has been doing is making sure these individuals do not suffer.”
According to the minister, NIB has spent nearly $100 million in unemployment benefit payments to its beneficiaries.
As it relates to the government’s own unemployment benefit programme, he added that “nearly $50 million” has been spent towards that initiative so far.
The programme is expected to end this month. However, Mr Rolle said yesterday a decision on whether the Minnis administration will extend the programme would be made during yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.
He said: “We are mindful about what the situation is. We’re concerned about the people of The Bahamas and we’re taking steps to ensure that we’re providing income support as well as food and the necessary supplies for the Bahamian people.”
Asked yesterday where the money will come from to fund the continuation of the programme, the minister replied: “It simply means that programmes that the government initially approved have to be diverted into this programme and that is how we are addressing things. For example, in the Ministry of Public Service there are some programmes that we had to put on but because of COVID, we had to recalibrate and address what is before us today.”