The National Insurance Board
As was reported in the local media recently, the National Insurance Board (NIB) is increasing its review of the contribution accounts of delinquent employers and self-employed persons in order to ensure compliance with the National Insurance Act (the Act).
The Act, which was passed into law in 1972, requires that all persons gainfully employed in The Bahamas – i.e., who are engaged in work and receive remuneration in respect of such work – must either pay contributions in to National Insurance (in the case of self-employed persons) or have contributions paid on their behalf (as is the case with employed persons). Such contributions provide for workers, in a way that no other entity or programme does, a reliable and sure safety net both for themselves and their dependents during specified times when income is lost.
As administrators of the National Insurance Act, NIB has an obligation to ensure compliance with the provisions of the legislation, so as to ensure that no worker is without this social protection. The Board takes very seriously this duty, and its efforts in this regard extend even to and on behalf of those who would willfully and intentionally fail to comply.
While NIB considers prosecution for non-compliance a last resort, there has been an increase in legal proceedings within the last several months – largely a result of our increased efforts to ensure that contributions are paid into NIB on time. The increased charges primarily include failure to pay contributions, and failure to produce employment records as requested by The National Insurance Board. Legal action is commenced only when all efforts to resolve the outstanding contributions directly with the employer have failed. In addition, action is only brought when the Board’s Inspectors confirm, through their local intelligence, that there is employment activity.
In the case of fishermen and farmers in the Family Islands, NIB’s officers are very sensitive in the discharge of their duties. Before beginning legal action against anyone – employer or self-employed person – the Board, through its Inspectors, makes a series of documented attempts to secure compliance. Cases are then only advanced after a thorough investigation is conducted and there is confirmation that the persons were, indeed, gainfully employed or have employment activities. NIB has Inspectors and/or managers resident in the Family Islands and these stewards understand the local economies and use a sensitive and commonsense approach when recommending prosecution. If a fisherman or farmer is unemployed, or not gainfully employed, and provides confirmation of this to NIB, the required adjustments are made and no further action will be taken.
Studies confirm that a significant number of self-employed persons do not pay contributions, and a large number of employers are paying late or not at all. This is a serious state of affairs – one that has the potential to adversely impact the future of the National Insurance Scheme. As we have previously stated, the National Insurance Scheme is solvent and strong – however, there are specific recommendations that have been made by the Board’s Actuary. One of these is the improvement of our collection efficiency throughout The Bahamas; if we continue business-as-usual, i.e., we do not improve our collection efficiency, the National Insurance Scheme will be challenged around 2032.
The National Insurance Board encourages all employers and self-employed persons throughout The Bahamas to visit their nearest NIB Local Office to resolve their arrears and/or continue to pay contributions on time. Legal action will only be pursued if businesses/self-employed persons fail to cooperate and/or fail to enter into a binding Installment Agreement with NIB.