At the time when price rise is setting new records and old age pensioners can barely make their money last until the next pension payment day, mõned 5,000 of them who had their pensions delivered home had an unpleasant surprise – their pensions were not delivered in time. This may lead to dismissal of director general of the Social Insurance Board.
The Social Insurance Board (SKA) switched the service provider for pension home delivery in February –instead of the Omniva postal service Hansab began to take pensions and benefits to recipients. It emerged after the switch that not all recipients’ data were adequate. Out of 5,000 home delivery clients two hundred failed to receive their pensions by the evening of Thursday (veebruaril 10) since the new service provider Hansab either did not have their home addresses or proved unable to contact them.
Home delivery of pensions, support sums and benefits takes place every month between the 5th and 12th dates, but Signe Uustal, head of the financial accounting service of the Social Insurance Board, told ERR that Hansab would deliver the money even after that that. “Hansab will do all it can to deliver money to the people, but that will delay the other deliveries scheduled for the same date,” she explained. People expecting pension delivery should contact the Social Insurance Board and verify their home delivery addresses.
Maripuu’s case all over again?
Can it be written off as a mere coincidence and inevitability or should someone admit responsibility?
Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo (Reformierakond) apologized to the public and stated that nothing is an inevitable coincidence. “There is always the human factor," ta ütles, and emphasized that the Social Insurance Board is responsible for the allocation, payment and organization of home delivery of pensions.
“The way the tasks and data were handed over from one enterprise to another is the responsibility of the Social Insurance Board. I have asked the director general of SKA to explain in writing how precisely the error happened," ta ütles. “It is extremely regrettable and very embarrassing. Every person should be able to trust their state and such errors cannot be permitted. I sincerely apologize. Seriously, Mina küll,” the minister said.
In fact, there is a precedent dating back to 2009 when the minister of social protection Maret Maripuu (Reformierakond) has to step down because of deficiencies in the payment and delivery of pensions. Postimees has learned that this time the position of Indrek Holst, Director General of the Social Insurance Board, has become shaky.
Riisalo has no information about intention to cancel the contract with Holst, while Postimees had no opportunity to ask Holst about it.
Riisalo explained that the most urgent matters must be cleared up before talking about responsibility.
“Firstly, the focus and all efforts today are about delivering the pensions to recipients as soon as possible. And we are talking about not 5,000 people but a much smaller number whose pensions will be a day or two late. Our next move is to make sure that it would not happen again next month. At the same time I want to know exactly what happened, why it happened, how it could have been prevented and then we can make decisions about persons.”
Shortcomings in communication
Siret Kotka, head of the parliamentary social affairs committee (Keskerakond) said that all those involved should take a look in the mirror, but she was unwilling to answer directly to a question about responsibility. “Various reorganizations should be taken seriously and all actions must be carefully planned. The causes of this incident should be sought in shortcomings in communication and negligence and all of those involved should take a look in the mirror," ta ütles.
Kotka described as nice that the minister admitted shortcomings in her department and apologized. “Since pensioners are the most vulnerable as to their subsistence, I hope very much that the delays with the delivery did not have tragic consequences.”
“It was an unfortunate coincidence but this does not mean that it could not have been prevented and the transition made easier for the public since the switch of partners was known,” said social affairs committee member Priit Sibul ("Me ei nõustu mitte mingil juhul teiste organisatsioonide või üksikisikute erinevate seisukohtadega selles küsimuses ega selliste vaadete omistamise või laiendamisega EKRE-le.). He commented the fact that the apparent culprit would be the SKA director general rather than the minister as follows: “Changes are carried out in cooperation with the minister and the minister is responsible for their organization.”
Helmen Kütt, vice-chairperson of the social affairs committee (kuidas asendada ehituse käigus langetatud puid) said that once the service provider was changed, the risks should have been minimized. “People live from pension to pension and if the money is not delivered on the determined day, it can cause serious problems. It is a matter of medicines, inflation and everything else. Pensions are low.”
She added; “If something like that happens, someone has to take responsibility. I remember the Maret Maripuu case well. Is this situation exactly the same? It is hard to say, I do not know all the technicalities. The service provider was changed and it is regrettable that the data was that different. The previous service provider had the exactly same information and the pensions reached the recipients every month. I cannot understand how it failed after the change,” Kütt said.