(L-R) National Insurance Board Chair, Lilian Misick, and Board Member Kevin Higgins, head of the Financial Services Commission
Sources within the interim government have reported that $6.1 million has been transferred out of the National Insurance Fund to the general fund. According to sources who have asked for anonymity, the money was transferred without any supporting invoice, memo or other documentation. The transfer appears to have been approved by the Financial Services Commission headed by Kevin Higgins, who is also a member of the National Insurance Board (NIB).
This transfer appears to be a portion of the $10 million that Governor Ric Todd had asked for on the basis that health expenses incurred by the National Health Insurance Plan (NHIP) were the responsibility of the NIB. Irvine Quelch, former NIB chairman, had taken serious issue with Todd’s position.
NHIP continues to be a drag on the budget and the issue of the requested $10 million transfer has not been reported as being resolved.
However, a recently reported $8 million-plus budget surplus for the first quarter may have resulted from the $6.1 million transfer from the NIB and the sale of the government-owned stock in the Provo Water Company.
The NIB consists of two individuals representing employers, two representing workers and two representing the government. The government positions are held by Higgins and Anya Williams, the current Permanent Secretary of Finance, who is also the niece of NIB chair Lillian Misick.
The NIB has apparently been regarded as a convenient source of funds in the past. Trevor Cooke, former NIB director, invested and/or deposited $23.5 million in the ill-fated TCI Bank, which only survived three years, taking down most of the $23.5 million and the savings of 4,000 other depositors. NIB also deposited an unknown amount in the Belize Bank at a time the bank was making loans on development projects, some of which were connected to former government ministers.
The National Insurance Fund, which began in 1992 under then Chief Minister Washington Misick, is reported to be worth over $125 million but is also reported to be facing future shortfalls, with increasing numbers of retirees beginning to collect pensions from the fund. The fund is financed by an 8 percent payroll tax, which is paid by all workers. It also provides some level of workman’s compensation for injured workers and pensions for disabled workers. All workers, both belongers and foreign workers, pay into the plan.
Meanwhile, according to news from the courts, ten more people and businesses have been added to the rolls of those who have failed to pay their national insurance taxes. Reportedly, arrears of at least $200,000, in addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars previously said to be in arrears, are now being pursued through the courts.