GSIS: IMPERFECT ACT OF CONTRITION

Did you read that full-page ad of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) the other week?  It was a breast-beating, heart-rending (“We share your pain.”) act of contrition.  The ad was surely paid out the huge P150 million public relations budget of GSIS.

But, as ever, it was an imperfect act of contrition.  It was like a sinner who blames the devil for his sin.

If a teacher complains that she has not been granted a cash value loan on her policy, GSIS blames it on its own collecting agent, the Department of Education and Culture, for not remitting the premiums (composed of DepEd’s contributions, which has been appropriated by Congress, and the teacher’s share, which has been deducted automatically from her salary).

In its gross inefficiency, GSIS has allowed these shortages to mount all these past years.  And yet, although empowered under its charter to do so, GSIS has not prosecuted its collecting agent.  GSIS prefers that the teacher, its most valued client, to continue suffering.

If a government employee, after forty years of faithful service, finds that his retirement pay is so meager, and decides to ask GSIS for a computation, he is told that either (a) his cash value loan, which he never applied for, had to be deducted from the final retirement figure, or (b) posting his records are incomplete. Even if the employee is able to present a forty-year file of pay slips, where all deductions are recorded, GSIS will find some other excuse in its bag of tricks.

If a government employee’s endowment policy matures, it takes GSIS several months to pay out the maturity benefits.  In the private sector, all the insured needs to do is to bring his policy to the policyholders service section, present any identification papers, and he can wait while the check is made out to him right there and then.

But, no matter what the complaint may be, the stock answer has been: we are shifting from our manual system of keeping records to a comprehensive computerized system.  I first heard this song some twenty years ago.

Now, GSIS, in its act of contrition, has put the blame squarely on – surprise, surprise — International Business Machines (IBM).

Questronix Corp. which supplied the database software package, has answered back by accusing GSIS managers themselves for causing the computers to crash because of poor database management and lack of standard backup measures.

I tend to agree with Questronix.  I suspect there are people in GSIS who do not want the terrible mess cleared.  Otherwise, the stink will rise to high heaven.  Pandora’s box all over again.

The Social Security System (SSS), with 25 million members (compared to one and a half million at GSIS), has its own set of problems but nothing as terrible as in GSIS.  SSS has graciously offered to help GSIS.  But GSIS has turned up its nose on the offer.

What should be done? As I have said at least once before, a Presidential Commission should be set up, with full powers, to look into the GSIS mess and recommend solutions within six months.  But, does anyone really expect President Arroyo to do this to her dear friend, Winston Garcia?

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