BASSETERRE, St Kitts – Former director of the St Christopher and Nevis social security last Wednesday stated that the greatest risk to the federation’s social security scheme is the alleged mismanagement that is now taking place at the Development Bank under the Team Unity administration.
Ambassador, Steve Wrensford, who worked in social security for 20 years said since social security was introduced in 1978, the fund has grown to over EC$1.4 billion and expressed concern over the high level of delinquency at the Development Bank and the lack of experience of the new social security director, who is a founding member of prime minister Timothy Harris’ political party.
A guest of Freedom 106.5 FM “Issues” programme, Wrensford, a former Non-Resident St Kitts and Nevis ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, noted that social security money is for the financial security of retired persons who make a contribution to the fund, those who get sick, or in the case of women, when they go on leave as a result of pregnancy.
He noted that social security is also a source of financing for government projects, and we know that hundreds of millions of dollars have been taken out of social security and put into the Development Bank of St Kitts and Nevis.
“It is therefore a great danger to all of us when there is no transparency about how our social security money is spent. There is no transparency when the person employed to be the head of social security does not have the technical know-how or experience to administer the fund,” said Wrensford, who pointed out that Antonio Maynard, who took up the post in June as director of social security is a political hack and a founding member of the co-ruling Peoples Labour Party (PLP) of prime minister Dr Timothy Harris.
“The employment of that person was done not because of his capacity to administer the fund but because of his political connection,” Wrensford told listeners.
He further revealed that the directors on the social security board are mostly members of prime minister Harris’ PLP.
“There is no transparency when the brother of the prime minister, who is the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Development Bank, sits on the social security board with millions of social security dollars being transferred in the Development Bank without any real project being identified,” said Wrensford, the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party candidate for St Christopher 4 Challengers to New Guineau.
“But that is only the tip of the iceberg. What happens to social security monies that goes into the Development Bank? As I said we do not know,” said Wrensford, who added that the greatest risk to the social security scheme is the wanton corruption and mismanagement that is now taking place at the Development Bank under the present administration.
In 2017, the chairperson of the St Christopher and Nevis social security board, Martiza Bowry, resigned in the face of political pressure to release the full sum of EC$41 million of social security funds for an NHC housing project which was not finalised at the time. In 2018, the female accountant at the Development Bank of St Kitts and Nevis resigned after just ten months on the job.
“The situation is getting worse every day. The delinquency rate at the Development Bank is at an unacceptable level and is approaching going on 90 percent. This is truly catastrophic. It means that only 1.5 percent persons for every ten people is repaying their loans. The money is being given out to friends and family members as though the Development Bank is a family bank, which means that the money that is taken out of Social Security to put into Development Bank is highly unlikely to be repaid to social security,” informed Wrensford, who expressed further concern that the Development Bank has not been audited since 2015.
“The Development Bank has not had any banking regulatory oversight since 2015. We also understand that the relationship between the Caribbean Development Bank and the Development Bank of St Kitts and Nevis is either non-existent or questionable,” said Wrensford.
He also pointed out that since 2015, no financial statements for the St Christopher and Nevis social security has been laid on the table of the St Kitts and Nevis National Assembly. The law requires that annual statements are laid six months after the end of each financial year.
“We have two of the state’s vital financial institutions and we have not had any financial statements since this new administration has taken office,” said Wrensford.
“The real trouble is that when some of you are old enough to retire, there would not be any money in social security for you to get the help you need in your golden years. The sick would not have any benefits. Women will not have the financial support they need when they proceed on maternity leave. Social security, the goose that lays the golden egg, will become bankrupt, and persons who retire will go home without any form of financial security in our golden years and those already retired will no longer be able to receive their pensions,” Wrensford said.