Chaguanas man takes Imbert to court over unpublished NIB reports

Colm Imbert -
Colm Imbert -

A CHAGUANAS man has received the court’s permission to proceed with an application which seeks to compel Finance Minister Colm Imbert to lay the National Insurance Board (NIB) annual reports for 2019 and 2020.

Justice Margaret Mohammed, on Thursday, granted leave to Chan Rampersad, of Enterprise, to pursue his judicial review claim which he has to file in 14 days.

Rampersad is also seeking two declarations that the minister breached or omitted to perform his statutory duty under the National Insurance Act to lay the reports and was guilty of unreasonable delay.

Mohammed has adjourned the matter to August 30.

Rampersad’s application says under the act, the board is required to publish its annual report within three months of the end of the financial year. It also said the minister had the statutory duty to lay the reports before Parliament, two months after he receives it.

The claim alleges the last time an annual report for the NIB was laid in Parliament was January 11, 2019, for the financial year 2018.

“Since then, no further annual report of the board has been laid in Parliament by the minister.”

The lawsuit also says the minister has provided no reason for the “unreasonable delay” in laying the reports in Parliament.

It added that the minister, in articles published in the daily newspapers, appears to only make mention of the 2018 report and it was “alarming: that more than two years later, there is no mention of the 2019 or 2020 reports.

Imbert was accused of being “unaccountable and non-transparent” in providing details on the outstanding reports.

The lawsuit said the minister continues to refer to decreases in the country’s birth rate, as contained in the 2018 report, “to justify not being able to pay public benefits.

“There has been no mention of the increasing death rate, even more than a year of the country dealing with the covid19 pandemic.

“This is of significance because an increase in the death rate creates a surplus in the National Insurance Fund as public contributions are unclaimed or partially paid to the deceased’s beneficiary.”

The lawsuit quoted a Newsday article, dated June 9, which quoted the minister as saying longevity could pose a risk to pension systems.

The minister was speaking at a webinar hosted by the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) and also spoke of the possibility of an increase in the retirement age to 65.

Rampersad’s lawsuit said this was an important matter that would affect senior citizens, especially at a time when the retired and elderly depend on their pensions, and it would be oppressive and unjust to increase the retirement age.

“Such a measure will wreak havoc on the lives of persons who are approaching 60 years of age and have planned their lives in anticipation of their pension.

“To deprive such persons of their pension at a time when medical bills and living expenses mount, will be cruel and unjust. It will be a grave act of social injustice.”

The lawsuit questions why the minister was contemplating increasing the retirement age without accounting to the public and letting citizens know the status of the fund.

It also alleges that the minister’s failure to lay the reports was because of the NIB’s diminishing performance over the last five years, and the public also had a right to know if the NIB was liquidating assets to pay benefits as had been contemplated in the 2018 report.

Rampersad is represented by a team of attorneys led by Anand Ramlogan SC, and includes UNC MP Saddam Hosein, temporary UNC senator Renuka Rambhajan and attorneys Che Dindial, Natasha Bisram and Jesse Rampersad.


"Chaguanas man takes Imbert to court over unpublished NIB reports"

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