The spanking new 19 million E.C dollar complex that is now the home of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) has finally been commissioned on Melville Street in St. George’s.
The 35, 000 sq. ft complex was delivered in October 2014 to the authorities but was only officially commissioned on April 9 in the presence of Government Officials, past board members and employees.
Designed by SRM Architecture of Barbados and constructed by Quinn Construction of Grenada, it took approximately 20 months to bring this project to life.
Currently NIS Management and Staff are serving customers in a more welcoming and conducive environment.
Managing Director of the NIS, Alfred Logie said the coming on stream of the New NIS building means that the previous head office will now be available for rent.
“Look at the new office by itself you will be only seeing half of the picture. The other half of the picture has to do with the rental space that’s created and it’s not just in the new facility but also with the relocation of our office from the previous building. It has now enable to National Insurance Board to make available for rent, that entire previous building so we believe that in years to come we’ll have 30,000 square feet of Prime Rental space for the National Insurance Scheme,” he told the gathering at the commissioning ceremony.
The new NIS complex was started under the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) government of Tillman Thomas.
According to Logie, the growth of the National Insurance Scheme can be seen through the payment of benefits.
He also said the growth of the National Insurance Fund has been one of the contributing factors to the NIS meeting the demands of the population and meeting expectations.
He recalled that the Fund was established back in 1983 with over $700,000, which was transferred from the Provident Fund and today it stands at $820 million.
“Interestingly Provident Fund pensioners who number just over 2200 have already drew $13 million in benefits over the last 15 years and there are still 823 of them that continue to receive monthly benefits, while this demonstrates a mismatch between that particular liability and asset …it’s testimony to the bedrock of social security,” he said.
Logie disclosed that in 2014 alone, some 53 million dollars in benefits were paid and on a monthly basis over 7000 pensioners had received approximately 4 million dollars in pension.
“Operationally we continue to challenge ourselves to greater levels of efficiency everyday,” he said.
He added that over the years, NIS has improved technologically and attributed this as another reason for the Scheme continuing to prosper.
“At present 80% of our contribution data is received electronically and uploaded with minimal Human intervention … and in this area the benefits are clear, the speed at which you can process a claim and also the integrity of the information that you have on your database”, he said.
“We have a processing rate of short term claims that have reached as of last month 98% in one day… the days of waiting three weeks to a month for benefits are long gone. We pay our pension by the 24th day of every month, clock work – most of the time it’s in the bank by the 20th and we have not missed that commitment we have made to the pensioners even with the passing of Hurricane Ivan,” he remarked.
Chairman of the National Insurance Board, Ron Antoine said the upgraded building is a demonstration of the commitment deliver world-class service to the people of Grenada, as well as part of a much larger investment strategy of the NIS.
Antoine spoke of the need for the scheme to engage in “carefully selected and managed investments” in order to ensure that “we have the ability to meet the obligation in the future years” to contributors.
“This building is part of one such investment. This year we will continue crucial work required to make adjustments to the scheme that are needed to further improve the sustainability of the fund,” he said.
The feature address was delivered by Parliamentary Representative for the Town of St George, Nikolas Steele, the current Minister of Health who praised the architect for the work that was done as it “adds to the architectural integrity of the town.’
Steele said the new facility “adds to the beauty of the town of St George” since it is not just “a commanding building but it fits with our historical architecture as best as possible”.
These facilities are quite likely the best office facilities in Grenada”, he added.
The senior government minister said he is comfortable with the manner in which the NIS has dealt with the task and responsibility that has been given to them by the people of Grenada. “No one to date has questioned the ability of the NIS to meet its commitments. However based on the most recent actuary reports, there are some significant and difficult decisions that must be made if we are to continue to have the confidence in the NIS and if the NIS Board and Management is to continue to have the ability to deliver without fear from the population,” he added.
He assured the NIS that Government would work side by side with this state-owned statutory body to ensure that the decisions are made in a timely manner.
There has been hints in the recent past that the scheme is planning to raise the age limit for persons to qualify for pension.
The Grenada Trade Union Council (GTUC) is known to be concerned about this possible development.