Pension probe hits grannies

Pension probe hits grannies

MASERU – THE government’s efforts to weed out ghost pensioners from its payroll through a thorough verification process is coming at a cost to many elderly people struggling to get to payment centres, it has emerged.
This came out at an indaba where the pensioners raised their concerns with Social Development Minister Motlohi Maliehe last Thursday in Setibing, Thaba- Putsoa constituency.

They said the verification process is a good move, but its implementation was unfriendly to their circumstances.
The ministry revealed a plan last Thursday.
This process was designed to verify that pensions are paid only to eligible pensioners in terms of the relevant regulations and to help the government make proper budget allocations.

Director of Pensions Thabo Ramochele said a study had revealed names which appeared to be ghost pensioners.
“There are groups of people who are involved in this act of paying people who no longer exist,” he said.
He said they saw it fit to establish the new process where every pensioner should physically show up at the facilities on the pay day.

Ramochele said they are also going to help the pensioners acquire national Identity Documents (IDs).
“We introduced this new process of using the IDs because we realised that most Basotho names are familiar,” he said.
Ramochele said the new process will include a new digital method of payment which includes e-wallet and M-pesa.

Currently the pension is delivered across the country as hard cash.
“If transport could have any problem or there could be bad weather, this is going to delay the payments,’’ he said.
However, ’Mamothobi Raphepheng, one of the pensioners, said payment through M-pesa was unworkable.
“Even the children are going to blow it even more since they are already blowing my airtime,” she said.

Raphepheng said they are already struggling to use the phones due to eyesight problems, providing an opportunity for children who help them operate the phones to swindle the money.
Acting chairperson of Likolobeng Community Council, Lloyd Tšoene, said they are worried about pensioners who are being turned away from the facilities.

“Some of them are very old. This is going to be a huge burden to pensioners, especially those who cannot walk,” said Tšoene.
“I wonder if the ministry will assist those who cannot walk with transport,” he said, looking at an old lady seated on a blanket.
The old woman was transported to the facility because she could not walk, he said.

Tšoene says the new digital payment method would create huge problems for the pensioners, including high cost of transaction charges.
Manko Nyai, a pensioner, complained about transport costs to get to the centres.
“It costs M100 for one pensioner to come to this facility, what more if they are two in the family,” he said.
He urged the government to review the process, saying it was likely to cause more problems for the pensioners.
In some places, donkeys and horses are the only mode of transport.
“If the elderly will be travelling using horses and donkeys, this is going to cause more illnesses for the pensioners,” he said.
He appealed to the ministry to with transport for those who can hardly walk long distances.

Minister of Social Development Motlohi Maliehe promised the pensioners that he would review the digital payment method.
“I realised that M-pesa will not work,” he said.
Maliehe said the ghost pensioners cost the government a staggering M11 million a year.

Refiloe Mpobole

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