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Sunday, 10 May 2015





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Pensions Dept sets up one-stop service centre

The Department of Pensions which was once unpopular due to officials being lethargic and corrupt has been transformed into an orderly and efficient institution according to pension applicants who turned up at the Department last week.

Applicants and those with various problems regarding pensions were welcomed in a friendly manner and their work attended to speedily.

There were no queues and loads of paperwork as it is still the case in many government institutions despite having gone in for automation.

“I did not expect this change. An official offered me a cup of tea and attended to my work quickly.

They were nice to me and I am happy that I could get back home soon,” a visually impaired retiree from Ampara said.

The Department of Pensions and many other State institutions were notorious for delays in payments, faulty systems and inefficiency of officials.

“Today, we don’t see that chaos in this department. Officials are enthusiastic and are capable of work. I received the care and attention which I did not expect,” a differently-abled pension applicant from Anuradhapura said.

“We have brought in order to the house and have introduced new systems to boost efficiency and motivate employees,” said Director-General, Department of Pensions, Sunil Hettiarachchi, who is determined to transform the department into the best government institution in the country.

He said there had been abuse of power and corruption in the past with instances where there had been retirees drawing two pensions and bogus arrears.

“We have addressed this problem and curtailed opportunities for fraud with the introduction of new technology. Most of our work is done on-line and there is little paper work. We hope to go paperless within the next six months,” he said.

There are around 1.1 million files for Widows and Orphans Pensions (W and OPS) which will be scanned and placed on-line soon, an official said.

“Our web-based system will enable pensioners to check their number, date of payment and other vital information on-line. With our on-line data of pensioners we have created a skills resource base for the country. The private sector could avail itself of the talent pool by browsing the website,” Hettiarachchi said.

The Department has introduced an health insurance scheme ‘Abiman’ with help of the private sector for pensioners, to ease the burden of healthcare. Healthcare cost is a major burden for senior citizens who cannot afford the staggeringly high medical bills.

“The insurance scheme for pensioners is a timely move that would provide us some relief. I am unable to afford my medical bills as the cost of living is sky-rocketing. I have to decide whether to have food on my table for my family or attend to my health,” a pensioner P. Rathnasoma said.

The Department of Pensions has also launched a pension plus scheme, a low interest bank loan scheme without collateral, ranging from Rs. 500,000 to Rs. 1.5 million.

“We will launch an electronic mastercard with Hatton National Bank for pensioners shortly enabling them to purchase good and use it as an Identification Card. The investment on the project is around Rs. 70 million,” the Director General said.

Pensioners said that this system will ease the burden of having to go to banks and withdraw money to purchase goods. The Department of Pensions launched the Sathkarapiyasa,’ a one-stop-shop at the Department last week which enables retirees to meet officials and finalise his or her family pension within a day.

The introduction of modern technology has raised the standard of services.

“We have issued circulars to all pension points to upgrade the systems. The Department has 4,000 pension points across the country.

The delay in commencing pension payments is due to Government institutions not furnishing accurate information on time,” he said.

Information regarding the employee should be provided three months before retirement and once a number has been issued the first payment is made.

- LF

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