Kalehia Johnson | Pension payment merry-go-round
Where do I start? I definitely couldn't start at the beginning, since I am talking about a year worth of stress. Yes! I am referring to the Ministry of Education. And I am quite sure I am not alone in my distress if its online reviews are testament to its service standards.
Media houses, I can't implore you to engage in investigative journalism because I assure you that at the ministry, everyone "has just stepped out", whether you should visit or if the head office should be as kind as to answer a call every now and then. Well, most news stations are a little nearer, but try driving from St Elizabeth to Kingston to attempt to interact with the sole individual dealing with pensions for workers, which is quite distressing when there is no one to respond in details.
Well, say the agent should decide to step in, the file is at the regional office in Mandeville. If the good God sees your plight and you are so blessed to make your fourth trip, guess what? The file is returned to the head office. Lo and behold, something has just stepped out of the file, too, and it will be sent back to the regional office in Mandeville, then to the school in St Elizabeth.
Now you take initiative and ask them to complete a pension form, which is one page, hence in five minutes, it's over. So you decide to 'play ministry' and you step out with the form and take it to the school in St Elizabeth yourself. It is only one page, so you will get the bursar to replicate the one page and return it to Kingston yourself so that the process can move along. Solution-oriented, right?
After taking the piece of paper that requires five slots to be completed with personal details and salary information to the bursar at B.B. Coke High, you are told by a very warm principal who shares your pain that it will be completed by the bursar's office as soon as possible. One would think, how hard could it be, since at the bursar's office, there are three other workers there.
Since the bursar was unable to complete the one piece of paper from September 2016, it is only fair to give them the desired time to do so. After all, the bursar has an assistant. Soooo, it takes the bursar another week, but with the kind nature of the principal, what is a week more added to a year.
After driving from St Elizabeth back to Kingston with the one piece of paper duplicated four times, the person in charge "has just stepped out", so the process of calling the ministry continues for another week just to gain information if the form has been received. Yes, you guessed it? By some mystery unknown to the average mind, the form is incorrectly completed yet again. Who holds the workers in these organisations accountable? Is it an issue of capability or carelessness?
Who is responsible?
When a 60-year-old lady is retired and for more than a year has not even etched the surface to start receiving her pension, who is responsible for this action? Why then can't the paperwork be put in place that retirees do not have to wait more than a year just to hear that the school has been sending incorrect information? How long then will the paperwork take when it finally gets to the Ministry of Finance?
Since the ministry did not get it right with my mother's pension, I decided to take my degree in so that I could be compensated for work done. After all, I am the one with the financial woes. I truly can't say I am surprised that after sending numerous emails and several calls, nothing was done.
Again, I decided to drive to Old Harbour another time to check on the process, only to be told that the copy that was turned in a month earlier can't be located and there is no evidence of it being handed in.
Mr Minister, surely, we can't continue like this. Here are some suggestions:
Open your doors a little wider to the college and sixth-form students who are always seeking a place to do voluntary service, if it's even just to answer the phones.
Capitalise on the JAMVAT and National Youth Service initiatives to get additional staff at least to locate the files.
It is the 21st century, please put the files in soft copy, because how long can one wait for you to sift through hundreds or thousands of yellow portfolios?
Since there is an age required for retirement, encourage schools to start the process of documentation beforehand.