‘Handling pensioners’ funds very risky’

National 2 minutes, 56 seconds

BRUNEI MUARA

GRASSROOTS leaders have raised concerns over their security when handling pensioners’ funds and welfare allowances from the Department of Community Development (JAPEM).

The current process requires them to carry and safeguard from $30,000 up to $200,000 every month before handing out the money to recipients.

In an interview with The Brunei Times yesterday, Major (R) Hj Md Jair Hj Abdul Wahab, Lambak B village head, said that “regarding the issue, we’ve brought it up with the authorities that village heads handling the money should be provided with escorts when bringing it from JAPEM to their homes.

“I’ve also requested for the police to make rounds to homes of village heads during payday when the money is usually being distributed as a precaution to check up on their safety.

“Although it looks simple, handling and safeguarding these large sums of money is a big responsibility for us,” he said.

He said if the authorities can take measures to ensure the security of the money being transported, it would help a lot in ensuring the effectiveness of distributing the funds.

“So far, there haven’t been any cases of village heads being robbed when handling the money, and perhaps this is why the relevant authorities aren’t so concerned with the security issue.

“However, as a precaution, I advise my peers to always be aware of their surroundings when handling the money and to take the initiative to ensure their own safety in case anything bad happens. If anything unwanted should happen, don’t forget to contact the police.

“Although JAPEM has suggested that the money be taken and distributed in stages for security reasons, I believe this would only slow down the process of distributing money to the recipients,” he said.

Meanwhile, the village head of Kg Lambak A/Terunjing, Hj Bujang Ahim, also expressed concerns for the security of the money he has to carry and safeguard from JAPEM.

He said he feels that transporting the money by himself to his home office is a very risky job.

He added that banks have their own security measures when transporting large sums of money and that village heads should be provided with some form of security as well.

Hj Bujang said he handles up to tens of thousands of dollars as he is in charge of handling the funds of more than 300 pensioners from his village which takes him more than a week to distribute from his home office.

The issue was also brought up by State Legislative Council (LegCo) member Dato Paduka Hj Puasa Orang Kaya Seri Pahlawan Tudin during the Legislative Council Session in 2011.

“In carrying out their tasks to pay the old-age pensions, village heads are always facing dangers and unforeseen circumstances because they are constantly carrying money amounting to $200,000 per person, as their duties are to distribute all the old-age pensions to their residents at their respective kampungs.

“With the increasing incidents of robbery and theft that are happening in this country, of course, the village chiefs are at high risk. I hope the parties concerned will find the best and practical way in accordance with the laws and regulations to avoid undesirable things from happening,” he said.

In response, then Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Hj Hazair Hj Abdullah advised village heads to request police escorts when distributing the payments to recipients.

“However, it depends on the police, whether they have the capacity to offer security services,” he said.

The Brunei Times