Approximately 4 weeks ago I received a call from the media asking what I knew regarding substantial claw backs of Pension monies from pensioners that was happening soon.
I called the Pension Division of Government and inquired as to what was happening regarding this claw back and was informed that they (the Pension Division) never heard of it and that there was no truth to the matter.
At approximately 10AM on April 1st, I received a call from Government saying they were giving me a heads up on a news release to come from the Minister of Finance regarding over payment of monies to pensioners who had been overpaid because of an error caused by Government in relation to the CPP –PSPP integration at age 65. I was informed that there was a total of 30 pensioners, 21 of who were from the Teachers Pension Plan and 9 were from the Public Service Pension Plan. I was also informed that 3 of those were in receipt of spousal benefits. I was assured that every possible avenue would be explored to lessen the burden of the overpayment repayments would be offered.
Approximately 2 hours later I received a call from the media looking for a comment on the news release and was informed that the number was 427 Pensioners who had to pay back $935,000.
I have today asked why did the numbers escalate from 30 to 427 in such a short time and it now makes one wonder is this the final number or should more pensioners now have to sit and worry am I about to be required to pay back some of my pension I received over the past number of years.
We see in the news that the Minister states that this is a result of an internal audit of the Finance Department, the first in the last 20 years.
As you know we the NLPSPA have had 2 studies done by an independent professional (Alison Coffin), an economics professor from MUN. Those studies were done in 2011 and 2014. Both studies showed massive abuse of the pensioner’s monies belonging to Public Sector Pensioners by respective Governments over the period of 1967 to 2014. One of the big items identified by the studies was that many persons receiving pensions had not paid into the plan and were granted ex-gratia pensions. Today I wonder if the audit covered those persons and is Government now going to try and have those pensioners repay in full the pensions which they have been receiving since 1967 and all years up to 2014. Many actions of Government which caused a huge deficit in those plans have been well documented in these studies and will Government themselves now be refunding those monies to the pensions.
The repayments of these monies by the pensioners leave a host of questions to be answered. When pensioners received the overpayment they received taxable income. What arrangements are being made for the pensioners to receive a refund of those taxes? What happens when the pensioners die and still have a deficit on the books? Will this money still have to be paid by the estate or by family beneficiaries? Does the 15% apply to all income received? What will become of widows or widowers who are receiving a spousal benefit who are presently living below the poverty level? Are they going to be driven down even further? Many other questions are to be asked and we, the NLPSPA, will be seeking a meeting with Government over the next few days to try and see if we can work out a plan to make the burden of this pay back by the pensioners as stress free as possible and see answers to the questions as state here.
Thank you for your time.
NLPSPA Past President