ISLAMABAD: The entire pension system is flawed that needs to be revamped through biometric system to get rid of ghost pensioners, Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue noted on Monday.

The officials of the National Bank of Pakistan and Controller General of Accounts denied the existence of 600,000 ghost pensioners in the country, as claimed by the NBP last month. “Matter is of reduction of pensioners drawing pensions from the NBP, as it comes down to 1.6 million in 2015 from 2.1 million of 2012,” President National Bank of Pakistan Syed Ahmed Iqbal Ashraf told the committee.

He said that the missing 600,000 pensioners might have either opened their accounts in other banks or do not meet our criteria. “We could not term them as ghost pensioners. We are just paying agency. We received seal list of pensioners from various departments and disburse the amount,” he added.

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Senator Saleem Mandviwalla did not agree with the arguments of the NBP president. “We should be given the list of 600,000 pensioners who opened their accounts in other banks,” he added. He further said that entire system of pension is flawed, which is not working. He asked representatives of federal and provincial governments to suggest measures, which could bring improvement in the pensions’ system. “Ghost pensioners are there. No body is denying it,” said Senator Ilyas Bilour. He said that government should open bank accounts of all pensioners for transparency. The Accountant Generals of the provinces should constitute teams for door-to-door visit of the pensioners in order to get rid of ghost pensioners. “There are flaws in the system, which should be improved,” Senator Kamil Ali Agha said.

The committee members recommended that the government should provide pensions through Direct Credit System (DCS) that included cash disbursement through all scheduled banks and directly credited to bank account of pensioners instead of traditional making payment through NBP and Pakistan Post Offices. “As many as 80 per cent of pensioners could be converted to DCS within two months if the National Bank of Pakistan provides database of pensioners,” Sindh Accountant General said. He said the NBP did not share database with us in fear that account holders would leave their bank.

However, President NBP strongly reacted on it and said: “We want people to go to other banks, as we could not afford their (pensioners) burden.” He clarified that bank had never refused to share data with accountant general.

The committee was informed that there are 2.5 million pensioners in the country. The break-up of 2.5 million showed that pensioners belonging to federal government are 373,766, Punjab 469,519, Sindh 121,608, Balochistan 45,544, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 130,502, Military Accountant General 1.2 million, Railways 109,303 and Pakistan Post 23,754. However, the figures did not include the pensioners of Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI).

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An official of the Military Accountant General informed that they disbursed pensions to 1,277,449 pensioners through Pakistan Post Office and National Bank of Pakistan and to 21,418 pensioners via Direct Credit System (DCS) making total number of pensioner at 1,298,867.

The Accountant Generals of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh proposed the committee to introduce biometric system for the verification of pensioners. Accountant General of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa informed Senate’s panel that provinces had already stared a drive for verification of pensioners since July 2015.

Later, the committee decided to wait for the report of committee constituted by the Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to review system of pensions, point out malpractices and suggest measures for revamping it. The aforesaid committee would come up with proposals for simplification of pension procedures and facilitation of the pensioners within 15 days.