Financial Assistance Department Annual Report

December 12, 2020 | 0 Comments

The Department of Financial Assistance “categories from highest participants to lowest is pensioners, disabled, earnings low and abled-bodied unemployed” and “the highest expenditures are rent, nursing homes, food and insurance. ”

This was from Minister of Labour Jason Hayward as he provided the 2018 – 2020 Annual Report of the Department of Financial Assistance  in the House of Assembly.

The Minister said, “The report provides information that demonstrates ongoing work being performed to maintain fiscal responsibility by enhancing the monitoring of expenditures and reducing the risk of fraud.

“Stringent procedures were implemented to ensure that the Investigative Officers utilized compliance guidelines and worked more closely with the Attorney General’s Chambers [Chambers] to standardize ‘Payment Agreements’ to reduce receivables [overpayment of funds] and discourage fraud. During the 2018/19 fiscal period two [2] cases of suspected Money Laundering was reported to the Bermuda Police Service. The outcome of these cases are still pending.

“Approximately twelve [12] cases were referred to Chambers for review, and instruction during this combined period. This is an exercise used to persuade offenders to commit to reimbursing the public purse.

“The Report illustrates a five performance trend for the department. It remains that the categories from highest participants to lowest is pensioners, disabled, earnings low and abled-bodied unemployed. The highest expenditures are rent, nursing homes, food and insurance.

“There is little change in these categories from period to period. Similarly, the Child Day Care programme trend does not show any significant changes throughout the years.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, This morning I rise to lay the 2018 – 2020 Annual Report of the Department of Financial Assistance [DFA] as prescribed by the Financial Assistance Act 2001, Section 3[4] which states: “the Director shall as soon as practicable after the end of the Government’s financial year make to the Minister and publish in such manner as he thinks appropriate a report of his activities under this Act for that year.”

Mr. Speaker, Let me first state that the tabling of the report is delayed as a result of a number changes in administration beginning in 2018 when the new Director was appointed. The Department also experienced two Ministry changes, and then the COVID 19 pandemic preparations impacted the output of this report.

Mr. Speaker, The Annual Report highlights some significant results achieved during this reporting period, which include:

  • i. reduction in the number of client complaints;
  • ii. reduction in the number of complaints to the Ombudsman’s Office;
  • iii. reduction in the number of Appeals to the DFA Review Board;
  • iv. enhanced monitoring and control of expenditure;
  • v. implementation of new internal policies and procedures;
  • vi. improved Audit reviews;
  • vii. improved governance and management of client case files; and
  • viii. front-end cross ministerial discussions and mapping of Financial Assistance Reform initiatives.

Mr. Speaker, Work continues in earnest to improve the quality of the Customer experience. The team is seriously working on transforming the service delivery from mediocre to professional and high quality level delivery. This has led to a decrease in the number of complaints lodged with the Ombudsman’s Office and the former Ministries. In addition, there was a marked decrease in the number of Appeals referred to the Review Board requesting overture of decisions meted out from the Director’s office. With the implementation of Community Pre-Screening activities by the Social Workers, applicants who are unable to attend the offices in Hamilton can complete the process in the comfort of their own homes. This is just one example of improved services available particularly for the elderly and disabled – the two largest categories receiving assistance. The new ‘intake’ process has reduced the time period between receipt of application and the resulting decision.

Mr. Speaker, The report provides information that demonstrates ongoing work being performed to maintain fiscal responsibility by enhancing the monitoring of expenditures and reducing the risk of fraud. Stringent procedures were implemented to ensure that the Investigative Officers utilized compliance guidelines and worked more closely with the Attorney General’s Chambers [Chambers] to standardize ‘Payment Agreements’ to reduce receivables [overpayment of funds] and discourage fraud. During the 2018/19 fiscal period two [2] cases of suspected Money Laundering was reported to the Bermuda Police Service. The outcome of these cases are still pending. Approximately twelve [12] cases were referred to Chambers for review, and instruction during this combined period. This is an exercise used to persuade offenders to commit to reimbursing the public purse.

Mr. Speaker, During the final year of this reporting period the department underwent an organizational review conducted by the Management Services Consulting team. The outcome of this assessment indicated that certain changes were required in order to realize an optimal framework and improved efficiencies that would ensure current and projected demands are met. In addition, teams were changed and case management functions were evenly distributed amongst workers to promote equity improved quality of work. New processes and procedures were introduced and implemented for good governance.

Mr. Speaker, The Report illustrates a five [5] performance trend for the department. It remains that the categories from highest participants to lowest is pensioners, disabled, earnings low and abled-bodied unemployed. The highest expenditures are rent, nursing homes, food and insurance. There is little change in these categories from period to period. Similarly, the Child Day Care programme trend does not show any significant changes throughout the years.

Mr. Speaker, In February 2018 the Financial Assistance Reform Group presented recommendations to Cabinet, but unfortunately this presentation was not successful and members of this group were requested to revise their submission in an effort to gain subsequent support. Following a revision, the newly proposed reform strategy put before Cabinet contained seventeen [17] objectives and thirty [30] recommendations. These recommendations received favour and were published on the government portal for public consumption. The department began the consultative process in an effort to prioritize and establish a ‘phased’ approach to garnish a successful implementation. The first recommendation to restructure the department was completed by the end of this reporting period. There will be more transformation and reporting on Reform initiatives in the future.

Mr. Speaker, The Ministry would like to take this opportunity to thank the Department of Financial Assistance team all partners who collaborated to support the work that is being carried out. These efforts will ensure that Bermudians gain access to services that will assist them to sustain a respectable level of living. It is the goal of this Ministry to go a step further to position Bermudians in gainful and respectful opportunities in the local workforce.

Thank You Mr. Speaker.

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