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The number of ghost pensioners increases

04 January 2013 / 16:01:57  GRReporter
3604 reads

Vctoria Mindova

45 thousand ghost pensioners have been revealed after the census of pensioners, who receive money from the pension fund of freelance employees. The closing date of the census was 31 December last year but due to the several days off around Christmas and New Year holidays, the relevant ministry has extended the census by the end of this week. The total number of people registered with this fund is 350 thousand. The extension of the deadline for registration has given no results and the number of those, who have not appeared is more than shocking.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security announced in early November 2012 a census of the pensioners registered with the agency securing the freelance employees. They should have appeared within two months at the regional branch of any bank or post office to take part in the census. Those having mobility problems and unable to appear in person need to be represented in the regional offices of the fund by legally authorised representatives.

So far, the data indicate that about 12% of pensioners from liberalized professions are "dead souls" and their pensions go into the pockets of others at the expense of taxpayers.

"So far, there has been no control mechanism in Greece to verify the number of pensioners in the country. Although dozens of crosschecks and endorsements are being carried out in order to pay a pension, the state has no tool to verify whether a pensioner is alive. Everything is in the hands of relatives, who are expected to voluntarily provide the death certificate to the authorities to suspend the payment of the pension," an expert of the agency securing freelance employees, who wished to remain anonymous, told GRReporter.

He insists that periodic checks are the only way to reveal ghost pensioners until a uniform system is developed to verify the status of citizens and to connect the tax services with the social security funds.

"Before the crisis, no one in the public administration system asked himself where the money was going. The crisis has driven the government to tighten the control, which has brought to light tens of thousands of non-existent pensioners, who drain funds from the system every month," he explains. Most often, the cases are of children or grandchildren of deceased pensioners who do not disclose their death and benefit from the pension of the deceased.

The specialist believes that the census of pensioners should continue until a more stable control mechanism is developed. He suggests that it should take place for all the people registered with pension funds every three years in order to avoid such mass frauds and stop the draining of money from the already bankrupt pension funds.

The only partial control that the state has exercised so far is in the payment of the additional pension to widows. In Greece, a spouse is legally entitled to receive 70% of the pension of her husband after his death. In the third year of the pension, the system automatically reduces the amount paid from the marital pension by half. If the widow appears with evidence that she does not work and has not remarried, the additional pension is restored. The same procedure is repeated when the widow turns 65 but after that age, the government has not provided measures of control and proof of entitlement to a pension.
"The system introducing the census might not be perfect, but it's a start," says the specialist. It gave results last year and after three different censuses in the country, the state has stopped paying over 200 thousand fake pensions that were draining from the budget 800 million euro a year. According to figures published last November, fake pensions have cost the Greek budget five billion euro in the last ten years.

Frauds connected with social allowances are another scourge of domestic security, which in turn drain millions of euro each year. Such was the scandal on the island of Zakynthos, which was called "the island of the blind." Verification last year showed that out of 388 registered blind only 34 were actually sightless whereas the rest had been receiving significant social allowances without being disabled.

Tags: SocietyFake pensionsGreeceFraudsPension funds
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