…as LTI commissions health & safety training laboratoryThe first batch of 151 students attached to the Linden Technical Institute (LTI) on Friday graduated from the “Retool Safety Awareness Training Programme”, as the institution also commissioned its first multi-purpose Health and Safety Training Laboratory in its compound.Students and officials at the graduation held at the Lichas Hall, LindenThe pilot programme, aimed at training and equipping students with technical knowledge on health and safety practices in the workplace, is a collaborative effort between Guyana Goldfields Inc and its subsidiary, Aurora Gold Mines Inc (AGM); Cuso International; Global Affairs Canada; the Canadian High Commission of Guyana; the Education Ministry; and the Council for Technical, Vocational and Educational Training (CVET).Over the course of the first year, 57 business and 94 engineering students were trained using an occupational safety and health module developed in British Columbia, Canada. There was also for lecturers a programme aimed at assisting them to teach students about health and safety.Speaking at the commissioning, and later at the graduation ceremony held at the Lichas Hall in Linden, Cuso Health and Safety Curriculum Programme Advisor Trainer and International Volunteer Marshall Denh-off said the initiative came as a result of a need for improved awareness in health and safety education among tradesman in the community, known for its mining skill-set. Denhoff, who worked along with the students, further explained that the programmet aims at preparing them for the workplace.“There’s a lot of hazards in the workplace, and the whole purpose of us being here today is to make sure that these young adults, when they go to work, they come back in as good condition or better condition than they went to work…We know about 20 percent of injuries and fatalities to young workers occur in the very first month of the job…We know young workers are at the greatest risk of being seriously injured in their first 6 months on a job… and young males face a 48 percent higher risk of injury than the overall working population…we have to try and change that culture…”, he noted.Denhoff said the programme is expected to be rolled out at all technical institutes across Guyana. Materials used in the training module, he noted, will be put together to be presented to other training institutions.Denhoff pointed out that there may also be a course for the general public. The certificate, he noted, can be recognised if included in a resume when applying for a job in the oil and gas sector.Reflecting on the training facility at LTI, Denhoff said he is excited about the future of the institution. He noted that it is well equipped, and will be a centre of excellence for health and safety training in Guyana. LTI Principal, Shurla Brotherson, said it is another milestone for the institute, which is now celebrating 60 years as an institution which provides quality skills training. She has thanked the partners of the initiative.“Three years ago, the institution was approached by Guyana Goldfields Inc about the quality of students we were providing to the labour market. Although skilled in those various areas, there was lack of the ability to demonstrate safe working practices. It was as a result of this that this revigorating training opportunity… ‘Retool Guyana,’ was championed…The programme focused on increasing the participation of youths, young men and women, including disabled and indigenous persons…“We can assure you that with the Occupational Safety and Health training that they have received, their performance in the various areas of specification would be evident. This is a great accomplishment for the Linden Technical Institute…,” she said.Brotherson added that the programme also saw upgrading of the institution’s curriculum, with Cuso and Guyana Goldfields providing technical support.Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Lilian Chatterjee, in her remarks, congratulated the students and noted that the Government of Canada is proud to be associated with the programme.“Because, for Canada, youth development is a priority. Canada understands the importance of engaging youth not only on issues that affect them directly, but on all issues of national and global importance… Young people represent a generation of true global citizens…the trainees here today are role models for others out there,” she stated as she encouraged students to maximise the opportunity in an effort to develop themselves and the country.Assistant Chief Education Officer (Technica) of the Education Ministry, Patrick Chinedu, in his address, extended gratitude to the companies, noting that the laboratory will be used to train safety officers for the school system and other agencies. This, he said, is as part of the Ministry’s policy to replicate and industrialise programmes.He added it is expected that the Ministry would provide training for 2 staff members of LTI at the degree level, and other training opportunities will be extended throughout Guyana.AGM Public Relations Officer Leon Roberts said the initiative is a very important undertaking for the company. He stressed that safety is its main priority. He noted that it is also a behavioural change exercise for students aimed at having them change their mindsets as it relates to safety.Graduating student Sa-Yoor Headly noted that the training received over the past year has equipped students to be better skilled in their areas of specialisation. “This training will not only help us as individuals, but will also benefit our community and country as a whole”, he said.
14 June 2012South Africa has begun rolling out a new biometric card to social grant beneficiaries that will cut down on fraud and corruption in the country’s grants system, improve on the delivery of grants, and reduce the costs involved in making payouts.Between June and December, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) will hand out the new, branded, biometric magstripe cards to grant holders, replacing the current Sekulula cards.The biometric cards will also replace temporary smart cards that social grant beneficiaries in Gauteng, Western Cape, the southern part of the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Free State – provinces which don’t use the current service provider – have been using since March.The first phase of the project, which began in March and ended in May, saw new beneficiaries being enrolled onto the new system.Second phase under wayThe second phase, which began this month and will end in December, will see existing eligible beneficiaries, including bank beneficiaries and children, being enrolled on to the new system at SASSA pay points, local offices and designated sites.SASSA will conduct home visits to those older than 75 years old as well as for bedridden beneficiaries at their homes and institutions such as hospitals.Beneficiaries of the child support grant will be required to bring their babies, along with their birth certificates, for re-registration. The child’s fingerprints will be taken to verify his or her identity. Beneficiaries will then be issued with a SASSA-branded smart card.The new cards, and the verification process attached to the issuing of the cards, will help SASSA to reduce the incidence of fraud and corruption, over which Auditor-General Terence Nombembe has repeatedly raised concern.A 2008 report by the Institute of Security Studies estimated that before the commencement of investigations by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) in 2006, the government had been losing about R1.5-billion a year through corruption and the maladministration of social grants.The risk of fraud and corruption is ever more important, with the 15.7-million social grant beneficiaries registered as of 30 April this year expected to grow to 16.8-million in three years.Progress in reducing fraudulent beneficiariesHowever, in recent years, SASSA has made several advances in reducing the incidence of fraudulent grant beneficiaries.Between 2006 and March 2012, the SIU was able to prosecute 20 554 people for fraud and corruption relating to grants, which resulted in 17 880 convictions.In all, 46 237 individuals who have been incorrectly receiving social grants have signed acknowledgement of debts totaling R304.9-million.Individuals that sign acknowledgement of debts, which has the effect of a civil court order, commit to repaying the money received in installments that are financially viable for them.To this end, a total of 132 603 beneficiaries have been verified for eligibility and existence and 7 133 were found to be fraudulent.Kgomoco Diseko, SASSA’s senior manager: media relations, said grants paid to the 7 133 beneficiaries who defrauded the system had been cancelled and criminal charges had also been brought against them.Monitoring irregular practices by employees, publicSASSA has also successfully implemented its integrity model, which serves to address and monitor irregular practices by both its employees and the public.Diseko says the integrity model represents a more proactive fraud management approach which encapsulates all aspects of fraud management, namely prevention, detection, investigation and resolution.“Its emphasis is on regulating the behavior of staff, while improving systems and processes,” Diseko says. “The greatest feature of the model is the integrity policy, which allows the agency to conduct random checks on its high risk employees to determine their level of integrity.”The agency is also participating in anti-corruption forums driven by the Department of Home Affairs.The Department of Social Development will also be setting up an inspectorate to help the department weed out fraud.R30-million anti-fraud inspectorate to be set upSocial Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said in her budget vote in May that R30-million had been allocated to set up an inspectorate, which is expected to be up and running by 2015.Also in May, Dlamini told Parliament that an Inspectorate Establishment Framework had been developed, as well as the Inspectorate Programme Management Unit structure comprising various functional work streams.“The process to recruit specialists and work stream project managers is at an advanced stage,” Dlamini said.She said the inspectorate unit was currently in the process to commission various research projects, and had prioritised the Comprehensive Legislation Review Project as well as the Systems Integrity Evaluation baseline study.“This will enable office to determine the actual levels of fraud and misconduct and help to project savings for the South African Social Security Agency, once the Inspectorate is fully legislated and adequately resourced to commence with the execution of its investigative mandate,” Dlamini said.Over R104-million in fraudulent grants recoveredMarika Muller, the SIU’s acting head of communications, says that since the SIU’s investigation into the SASSA began in April 2005, the unit has helped the government recover over R104.6-million.She says the SIU is still collecting an average of over R2.3-million a month in cash repayments from those who claimed grants irregularly.The SIU has recommended to SASSA that it remove all improperly received grants, involving savings to the government (and the taxpayer) of over R1-billion, and the prevention of future losses of over R11.8-billion.Three types of wrongful beneficiaryMuller says individuals receiving grants to which they are not entitled generally fall into three categories. These include individuals who have been found to have purposely lied about their income, employment status and or state of health in order to receive grants.They also include individuals who initially qualified to receive a grant, but then saw an improvement in their financial status which generally disqualified them from receiving grants.In many cases these individuals do not notify the SASSA of this change in status in order for their grant to be stopped; in some cases, they are not aware they needed to do so, says Muller.Finally, there are individuals who are receiving social grants as a result of errors in the process.Muller says that in the first category of individuals – those who purposely lied about details to gain access to grants – the SIU concludes initial investigations before handing the cases over to the SAPS for a decision on further action.Criminal charges, she explains, are also laid in instances where individuals had gone more than 12 months without notifying SASSA of their change in circumstances.“A decision was made with SASSA and other role players that criminal charges would not be laid against individuals who did not understand the reporting obligation, or who erroneously received grants as a result of process errors.“These individuals are, however, required to pay back the money they were not entitled to, either in a lump sum or installments through an AoD (acknowledgement of debt),” says Muller.Biometric cards to save R800-million a yearThere are also other benefits to the new biometric cards. For instance, the new smart cards will allow beneficiaries to access grants through multiple channels across the country, such as points of sale, banks, merchants and cash pay points.Dlamini said in her budget vote speech that the new payment system would help the government save R800-million a year.The new system provides for a service fee of R16.44, totaling R2-billion collectively in fees a year – R800-million less than the total fees generated by the former service provider.However, the former service provider, All Pay, has launched a court bid to have the current contract, run by Cash Paymaster Services, set aside, alleging irregularities in the tender process.The Legal Resources Centre has joined the case as an amicus curiae over concern that the court action may disrupt the disbursement of grants and SASSA’s verification process.Sarah Sephton a lawyer from the Legal Resources Centre, says Judge Elias Matojane had assured the court that interim processes would be considered should a ruling be made to halt the tender.In 2000, Sephton assisted thousands of grant beneficiaries in the Eastern Cape in a class action case against then minister of social development, Zola Skweyiya, after a botched verification process, intended to consolidate grant beneficiaries from the former homelands of the Transkei and the Ciskei and old Cape Province, resulted in thousands not being able to obtain disability grants.However, SASSA had assured Sephton that there would be no disruption in the disbursement of grants with the current verification process.Source: BuaNews