National Pensions Office is finally, officially finished

Plans
to reorganise Cayman’s National Pensions Office were announced several months
ago, but last week Employment Minister Rolston Anglin made it official: the
pensions office is finished as an agency.

The
work of the National Pensions Office and its governing board will be split
among the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, which will handle regulation of
the pension plan providers and the newly created Department of Labour and
Pensions, which will handle enforcement of non-payment and dispute resolution
between employers and employees.

“The
division of responsibilities should solve the governance challenges where the
roles of the ministry, the National Pensions Office and the National Pensions
Board have become increasingly confused and in some circumstances,
contradictory,” Mr. Anglin told members of the Legislative Assembly last
Wednesday.

The
Department of Labour and Pensions is intended as a “one-stop-shop” for all
labour-related disagreements. Previously, claims of employers ignoring
legally-required pension payments were dealt with by the National Pensions
Office. However, previous staff members, as well as pension board members, have
told the Caymanian Compass that the system wasn’t working – largely because the
government didn’t provide enough resources for the office to get its job done.

Former
Cayman Islands Pensions Superintendent Cyril Theriault said in an interview
earlier this year that his organisation was chronically underfunded and lacked
the proper staff to look into complaints made by workers or delinquency reports
filed by plan providers.

Mr.
Theriault added that during his tenure the Pensions office enjoyed a total of
three inspectors at most and, at one point, had just one inspector.

Meanwhile,
Premier McKeeva Bush has said government often had to assume the regulatory
costs of the pensions system not funded by pension plan providers and was able
to supply only limited funds.

“If
the cost of regulation is $900,000 a year, government was only getting three
(hundred thousand),” Mr. Bush said.

Mr.
Anglin said the monetary authority would not handle pension regulatory matters
“in the same way that it regulates other financial services under the relevant
laws”.

The
authority already regulates the finance industry, insurance companies and
banks, to name a few. Managing Director Cindy Scotland recently told lawmakers
that the authority did not have the staff it needed to keep up with all its
work.

Complaints
Commissioner Nicola Williams is wrapping up her office’s investigation into
non-payment of pensions by Cayman Islands employers. According to Ms Williams,
some 670 companies have been identified as delinquent on legally required
pension payments.

Legal
regulations were recently proposed to allow for some administrative fines in
cases where obvious violations of the National Pensions Law had occurred,
rather than having those cases drag out in court.

Under
amendments to the National Pensions Law (2000) and National Pensions General
Regulations (1998), Mr. Bush said the regulatory agency for Cayman Islands
pensions – formerly National Pensions Office, now the Department of Labour –
will have the ability to levy administrative fines without having to file
criminal charges against company owners who don’t pay.

Mr.
Anglin said the new department would also be able to inspect local workplaces
for both labour and pensions issues, rather than having two separate agencies
arrive at separate times to perform different inspections.

“This
will lead to more efficient utilisation of government’s human resources and,
for businesses, it will create less disruption to their operations,” he said.

It
was not clear what would become of the National Pensions Board. It is possible
the entity could simply be abolished, or turned into an advisory body to assist
the Department of Labour and Pensions.

Mr.
Anglin did not specify the board’s fate in his statement.

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