by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES – In an overseas phone call to the Manila-based Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Executive Vice President of Operations Enriqueta Disuanco acknowledge the problems that their new technology had but said that there’s no turning back.
“The check payment system was just too administratively burdensome,” said Disuanco to the Asian Journal. “It had been subject to a lot of fraud. We had to undergo changes in our designs but even [with] that [change] in the checks, some unscrupulous persons [still] take advantage and cash those checks.”
Disuanco said that in the previous system, the GSIS would issue at least 300,000 pension checks a month and more than 600,000 in December for Holiday ‘cash gifts.’
“Some checks would also get lost in the mail,” she added. “And our pensioners wouldn’t know how many checks they lost. They would become victims of unscrupulous persons.”
As reported for the past few weeks by the Asian Journal, the GSIS implemented a new anti-fraud technology, GW@PS, an e-card registration system to combat the fraud from the previous check distribution system. Pensioners would register by giving a fingerprint for an e-card and receive an ATM-like card. The new system would allow the GSIS to deposit money into a pensioner’s bank account monthly, in turn the pensioners abroad could receive their monies at their local bank ATM. Pensioners would also need to re-register yearly.
“Our mission is to provide our members including the pensioners services anytime and anywhere,” she added. “Since we are computerizing we are promoting a paperless environment and the e-card is the heart of it all.”
But for the past year, this new registration system has become troublesome for many pensioners and Philippine Consulate officials, who with no training have to man the machines.
There are a little less than 5,000 pensioners and pension survivors living in the US. The average age of these pensioners is 68, according to Disuanco. The GSIS has set up an e-card registration system in seven Philippine Consulate locations.
Pensioners living abroad were required to start registering to their local Philippine Consulates last March 2007. However, pensioners have been complaining about the lack of service and placed blame on the Consulate officials. In turn, Consulate officials who have maintained that they are not properly trained to handle the high tech electronic device have thus complained to the GSIS reps in Manila and requested that they send their own representative.
What was supposed to be a convenient way of doing business for the GSIS has become a logistical nightmare. Disuanco said they are fully aware of the problems and are working hard to remedy the situation.
“These problems have been brought to our attention,” she said.
She said that they have new technology that they are testing in the Philippines, including a voice biometric system. Under this new technology, pensioners would just need to call the GSIS to re-register their e-card to continue to receive their pension, eliminating the hassle of physically going to the consulate office.
She also said that many problems with the e-card are the pensioner’s own fault.
“When we were investigating these cases, we found that pensioners failed to activate their account, some have mismatches in their ID’s so we had to make corrections and adjustments and the new data has not been updated.”
She said the GSIS is also working closely with Consulate officials to inform pensioners of new procedures and to work hand in hand with the Consulate official manning the kiosk.
Many Consulate officials have asked the GSIS to house a GSIS representative to man the kiosk permanently to serve the pensioners.
Disuanco said that the GSIS sent out a proposal to the Philippine Consulates that they would pay the current official monitoring the kiosk.
“We want them to give consideration to our proposal. We cannot provide a GSIS personnel to man the kiosk,” said Disuanco. “We believe there are only a few pensioners abroad who have not signed up for an e-card.”
Consulate officials that this reporter has spoken with dismiss that there was ever a proposal from the GSIS.
“If there is one, I’d like to see it,” said a high ranking Philippine Consulate official, who did not want to be named due to fear of reprisal.
Disuanco continued saying that the GSIS also revamped their IT department and are now closely monitoring their customer service staff. She said the GSIS implemented a new policy, in which the executives and customer support staff must respond or remedy within ten days of receiving a complaint or “face administrative penalties.” She did not elaborate the penalties.
She assured that those who have not received their pension this past year will be credited with back pay. Pension survivors will have to wait a little longer, according to Disuanco.
“The survivorship has not been credited for their e-card because only 60 percent have only enrolled in their e-cards,” she said. “We need at least 80 percent until we can credit them.”
Disuanco finished the conversation by saying that the e-card is here to stay.
“We are committed to providing our pensioners all the benefits that are due them,” she said. “And while we have been receiving a lot of complaints, we are dong everything possible so that we can resolve all of their issues.” (www.asianjournal.com)