Two months after Minister of Public Service and National Insurance Brensil Rolle revealed that as much as $17 million in contributions are owed to NIB from delinquent employees, the board announced the establishment of a task force aimed at recouping those funds.
In a statement yesterday, the National Insurance Board (NIB) said the national insurance fund is suffering as a result of non-compliant employers.
“NIB does not turn away employees in search of benefits to which they are entitled, even when contributions have not been made on their behalf by delinquent employers, once it has been established that the persons were employed at their establishments,” the NIB statement notes.
“As such, NIB has paid benefits to such employees, notwithstanding the non-payment by their employers. This becomes an unsustainable burden on the fund.”
NIB said efforts are being made to develop “innovative approaches” to ensure that all workers are registered with their current employers at NIB to improve compliance.
“The National Insurance Board has established a serious arrears task force to go after the millions in contribution arrears which are owed to NIB, and which funds the pension and other benefits [owed] to the workers of The Bahamas through the national insurance fund,” according to the statement.
“Over the years, NIB has allowed employers who have fallen into arrears with respect to their NIB contribution payments to enter into installment agreements.
“… As a matter of policy, NIB requires an initial payment representing the amount that the employer would have deducted from its employees towards the NIB contribution. These funds would not have belonged to the employer at any time.
“NIB reminds the public that it may not write-down any amounts owed to NIB as the funds are held in trust for the payment of pensions and other benefits for works of The Bahamas.”
The statement added that NIB remains committed to working with employers who find themselves in difficult circumstances. However, it also warned that delinquent employers could face legal action if they fail to make arrangements to settle their arrears.
Last month, Rolle issued a similar warning.
He noted that there are payment delinquencies “through all sectors, large, medium and small scale [businesses]”.
“What we are seeking to do is identify those businesses and operators who…have deducted from individuals’ salaries and not made their payments to NIB,” Rolle said.
“[These companies] have a responsibility, not only to NIB but to the persons whose salaries they have deducted, to make sure their commitments are made.”
However, regardless of if companies were actually deducting contributions from employees, the payment of these amounts is “a commitment that we regard as outstanding”, Rolle said.
When asked about the likelihood of the board recouping this debt, Rolle said it was a process that “must be doable”.
Non-payment of employee NIB contributions is an offense under the National Insurance Board Act, liable to a minimum of six months in prison or a fine of $1,000 or both, to a maximum of 12 months in prison, or a fine of $2,500 or both.