The Pensions Department is planning to temporarily suspend around 11,000 pension payments to pensioners settled abroad as they have not provided sufficient details and entered their details in the overseas database.
Of the total number of 450,000 pensioners, around 25,000 are presently living abroad. Of them an estimated 18,000 are obtaining their pensions but only 7000 of them are registered with the department’s database.
“We have no choice but to take strict action if pensioners ignore the rules. They should be more responsible and apply through the respective Divisional Secretary (DS) to register themselves. Some do not inform their DS when they leave the country. Some have joint accounts and the pension is automatically deposited in that account with the Pensions Department being unaware whether the pensioner or his widow is withdrawing it,” Pensions Department Director General K.A.Tilakaratne said.
According to Mr. Tilakaratne many pensioners settled abroad with their children soon after the 1983 riots.
The Department is active mainly in Great Britain, United States of America, Australia, Canada and India where pensions are paid to Lankan pensioners who are permanent residents there through the respective High Commission. The pensions of some are remitted to their bank accounts in Sri Lanka.
He said that the number of pensioners leaving the country is higher in Colombo district and most of the time the department is unaware of their leaving.
“In Colombo district there are 90,000 pensioners and around 10,000 have left the country without informing us. Pensioners living abroad are requested to submit a life certificate monthly and as some have not done so we were compelled to suspend payments to them,” he said.
The department had sent data base applications to the local addresses of the pensioners through the Divisional Secretariats giving them three month’s notice to complete and return the applications failing which their pensions would be suspended, he said.
Mr. Tilakaratne added that pensioners living abroad can access the Pension Department website for registration.
The Government spends Rs. 7,000 million annually for the payment of pensions.