Wed | Jan 23, 2019

Hiding in plain sight!

Published:Sunday | September 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM
A crowd of applicants try their luck at the SLB offices in this 2005 Gleaner photo.-FILE

Some Students' Loan Bureau delinquents active on Facebook and other social media

Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer

Chronic delinquents to the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) living in Jamaica and overseas appear to be hiding in plain sight as they can be seen daily on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social-media sites.

These delinquents owe the SLB millions of dollars which the revolving loan scheme needs so that other needy Jamaicans can benefit.

The bureau currently lists 249 delinquent borrowers on its website, who it says it cannot find. The delinquency list was reportedly updated by the SLB one year ago. However, our news team checked the first eight pages on the SLB website which contained 72 delinquents and found six who have active profiles on Facebook.

But is appears that the rules now restrict the SLB from using this means to track down these persons who are not servicing their loans.

Public relations officer at the SLB, Analisa Allen, told The Sunday Gleaner that while officials of the bureau are prevented from using Facebook during work hours, "every possible legal means is used to contact delinquents".

"I am not aware that we are prevented from using social media or new media to contact delinquents. What we do not do is publish the faces of delinquency on our Facebook pages. While our officers are not allowed to use Facebook during work hours, some of them work very late and I have seen individuals," said Allen.

contact delinquents

She argued that in some instances, the privacy settings of the individual's account prevent the bureau from messaging them without a friend request being accepted.

"We have been using every means available to contact delinquents. And there are times when we have used social media to contact individuals and they have begun repayments. However, there are some that we simply cannot contact, because of those settings," added Allen.

But one guarantor of a SLB loan told our news team that she is being hounded to repay a loan she guaranteed even though the borrower is active on Facebook and gainfully employed in the United States.

"I told them how I found the person using social media, and it was at that point that they told me they can't use social media platforms to contact delinquents. So I have decided to let them take me to court," said the disgruntled guarantor.

It is a position understood by former Finance Minister Audley Shaw, who cannot understand why social media is not being employed to help find these delinquents.

"What would be so wrong to use Facebook to contact these delinquents?" asked Shaw when contacted last week.

Member of Parliament (MP) Dr Dayton Campbell agrees that every means should be used to contact delinquents.

"People are to be encouraged to repay loans so that it can benefit needy and bright individuals who do not have financial access," said the government MP.

On its website, the SLB declares that it "will maintain its zero tolerance of this serious problem which threatens the viability of the Students' Loan Scheme and the future of generations of students who are looking to the SLB for the financing of their educational aspirations. We will institute even stricter measures to crack down on delinquency and ensure that loans are repaid." But this seems just an empty threat as delinquents hide in plain sight.