Auditor General Report finds 27-year-olds receiving pension payouts /

The 2021 Au­di­tor Gen­er­al’s Re­port has un­earthed shock­ing in­con­sis­ten­cies show­ing sev­er­al State grants, meant to as­sist the needy and vul­ner­a­ble in so­ci­ety, go­ing in­to the wrong hands.

The star­tling ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties were un­cov­ered in the Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment and Fam­i­ly Ser­vices in the 154-page re­port for the pe­ri­od Oc­to­ber 2020 to Sep­tem­ber 2021.

Among the glar­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties dis­cov­ered were peo­ple as young as 27 re­ceiv­ing pen­sion pay­outs, ben­e­fi­cia­ries of food cards ob­tain­ing dou­ble pay­ments, per­ti­nent in­for­ma­tion for the pro­cess­ing of grants be­ing blank on the min­istry’s data­base, a pay­out of $886,350 made to 61 ben­e­fi­cia­ries whose na­tion­al IDs did not cor­re­spond with their date of birth, peo­ple col­lect­ing more than one grant and four cen­te­nar­i­ans be­tween the ages 114 to 135 ap­pear­ing in the sys­tem who could pos­si­bly be dead.

The re­port fo­cused pri­mar­i­ly on four grants—food sup­port pro­gramme (food cards), pub­lic as­sis­tance, dis­abil­i­ty as­sis­tance and se­nior cit­i­zens’ pen­sion.

Look­ing in­to the ex­pen­di­ture of the food cards, which pro­vide short-term food as­sis­tance to fam­i­lies each month, the re­port found in­con­sis­ten­cies with the na­tion­al ID num­bers of some re­cip­i­ents. The deb­it cards are val­ued at $510, $650 and $800.

«One in­stance was seen where a per­son’s na­tion­al ID num­ber com­prised more than the stan­dard­ised num­ber of dig­its,» the re­port re­vealed.

There were al­so four in­stances where the na­tion­al ID num­ber in­di­cat­ed that per­sons over 100 years – 114, 123, 130 and 135 years re­spec­tive­ly – ap­plied for the grant. Giv­en the ages of these cen­te­nar­i­ans, it gave the im­pres­sion they were no longer alive.

It al­so found that one in­di­vid­ual re­ceived two pay­ments of $510 for Au­gust 2021.

The re­port al­so found that al­though one per­son had an in­com­plete na­tion­al ID num­ber record­ed, «this per­son re­ceived dou­ble pay­ments for 11 months from Oc­to­ber 2020 to Au­gust 2021.»

The dou­ble pay­ments were at­trib­uted to the re­cip­i­ent hav­ing both a $510 and $650 cards.

«Au­dit was un­able to de­ter­mine whether over­pay­ments had oc­curred, since the in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ing to the ap­pli­cant’s el­i­gi­bil­i­ty for the grant amount was not avail­able,» the re­port stat­ed.

Ad­dress­es of ap­pli­cants were al­so not in­clud­ed in the da­ta and «au­dit was un­able to de­ter­mine whether more than one mem­ber of a house­hold was in re­ceipt of the grant.»

The re­port al­so delved in­to the pub­lic as­sis­tance grant, which pro­vides month­ly fi­nan­cial aid to in­di­vid­u­als whose house­hold in­come is in­ad­e­quate. Grants of $1,300, $1,550, $1,750 and $1,900 are giv­en out month­ly.

While the re­port stat­ed that 23,715 peo­ple were ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the grant, amount­ing to $309,898,450,00, it found that «there were 673,504 in­stances of blank fields in the data­base.»

These fields rep­re­sent­ed per­ti­nent in­for­ma­tion for the pro­cess­ing of the grant.

«These blank fields in­clud­ed na­tion­al ID card num­bers, date of birth, post­code ‘bank ID,’ on be­half of the cheque sta­tus in­for­ma­tion.»

A break­down showed that 18,867 ben­e­fi­cia­ries had blank fields in the ID col­umn, 24,434 had fields with no date of birth, 168 had no pay­ment cheque ben­e­fi­cia­ry cat­e­go­ry, 93,210 had no da­ta for cheque sta­tus, 221,165 had no da­ta for bank ID SSMS, 24 had no post­code, 94,471 had no batch ID and 221,165 had no da­ta for OBO (on be­half of).

Even more shock­ing in the re­port was the dis­cov­ery that «16 per­sons had na­tion­al ID num­bers that did not meet the cri­te­ri­on of a na­tion­al ID card num­ber stip­u­lat­ed by the Elec­tions and Bound­aries Com­mis­sion» and «the na­tion­al ID for 61 per­sons did not cor­re­spond with their date of birth. Pay­ments to these in­di­vid­u­als to­talled $886,350.»

It al­so stat­ed that the data­base did not pro­vide da­ta re­gard­ing the size of the fam­i­ly of each ap­pli­cant.

«Au­dit was there­fore un­able to de­ter­mine whether the cor­rect amount was paid to each house­hold.»

There were two in­stances, the re­port stat­ed, in which two per­sons re­ceived two pay­ments of the grant for the month of Au­gust 2021 to­talling $2,600.

The re­port al­so ex­am­ined ex­pens­es re­lat­ing to the month­ly $2,000 dis­abil­i­ty as­sis­tance grant which pro­vides sup­port to cit­i­zens per­ma­nent­ly dis­abled and un­able to work. I un­earthed «1,238,235 in­stances of blank fields in the data­base,» per­tain­ing to this grant.

Of this fig­ure, 41,552 had no na­tion­al ID, 48,012 had no record of date of birth, sev­en had no cheque num­ber, 207 had no post­code, 275,700 had no pay­ment cheque ben­e­fi­cia­ry cat­e­go­ry, 207 had no bank ac­count num­ber, 159,337 had no cheque sta­tus, 275,700 had no bank ID SSMS, 161,733 had no batch ID and 275,700 had no on OBO (be­half of).

«The na­tion­al ID num­ber and date of birth fields were blank in 3,782 in­stances. Pay­ments amount­ed to $83,104,000,» the re­port found.

In two in­stances, the au­dit un­cov­ered two peo­ple who had the same na­tion­al ID num­ber record­ed.

Al­so, 42 pay­ments were made for the pe­ri­ods Oc­to­ber 2020 to June 2021 and Oc­to­ber 2020 to Sep­tem­ber 2021, amount­ing to $84,000.

«In­con­sis­ten­cies were found in 13 in­stances where the na­tion­al ID num­ber en­tered in the data­base did not meet the com­po­si­tion of the na­tion­al ID num­ber,» the re­port said.

In ad­di­tion, the na­tion­al ID num­ber in 86 in­stances did not cor­re­spond with the date of birth da­ta field and one per­son re­ceived pay­ments for the months of Oc­to­ber and No­vem­ber of 2020 from two sep­a­rate lo­cal boards.

The re­port al­so looked in­to the se­nior cit­i­zen pen­sion (SCP), which pays $3,500 month­ly to na­tion­als over the age of 65.

What the au­di­tors un­earthed was star­tling.

They found 52,876 in­stances where the date of birth field was blank, 106,794 in­stances where the en­try in the field was stat­ed as ‘NULL’, 404 in­stances where cheque num­ber was «0» and bank ac­count was al­so «0,» to­talling $1,296,000.» Al­so, 18 in­stances were dis­cov­ered where the name field was blank for records re­lat­ing to one lo­cal board.

«In­con­sis­ten­cies in the na­tion­al ID num­bers were found in 146,487 records. Twelve in­stances were found where two dif­fer­ent SCP re­cip­i­ents had the same na­tion­al ID num­ber. 186 in­stances were found where the age of the SCP re­cip­i­ent ranged from 27 years to 64 years. 13 in­stances were found where the na­tion­al ID num­ber did not agree with the date of birth da­ta of the ap­pli­cant. A num­ber of in­stances were found where per­sons re­ceived more than one grant,» the re­port said.

Fam­i­ly De­vel­op­ment and Fam­i­ly Ser­vices Min­is­ter Don­na Cox told Guardian Me­dia on Tues­day that she had not seen the re­port and would like to di­gest it be­fore com­ment.

LINK ORIGINAL: The Trinidad Guardian