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Government sorry for pensions blunder

The Department of Social Insurance has apologised to the island’s seniors after it was discovered that some were being short-changed on their pensions increase.

The matter arose when a reader complained to The Royal Gazette that he and his partner had received a 4.7 per cent increase to their Contributory Pension Fund benefits — as opposed to the 5 per cent boost promised by finance minister Bob Richards.

“Can government explain where the other 0.3 per cent went?” said the reader, who asked not to be named.

“I’m pleased to see that we finally got our pension increase, but the promised 5 per cent is an exaggeration.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Finance attributed the shortfall to a clerical mistake.

“The Department of Social Insurance is aware of a reduced percentage received by some pensioners on September 15 of approximately 4.7 per cent, due to a rate input error,” he said.

The spokesman added that the matter only affected those receiving either a contributory pension or a widow’s or widower’s allowance. “The Department is currently making the necessary corrections and will pay the difference due in the next pay period on October 15. The Department apologises for any inconvenience,” he said.

The implementation of the pensions increase also caused confusion last month.

Mr Richards declared that the 5 per cent increase would be “effective August 2016” in the House of Assembly in June.

However, seniors saw no difference in their August pension packets.

The uncertainty around the matter led to another clarification from a Ministry of Finance spokesman. “Increases in contributions to the fund were effective August 1, and the increase in pension benefits for seniors will be effective August 16,” he said. “Benefit increases will first be reflected in the September 15 benefit payments.”