ETF unveils new digital inspection system

Monday, 4 September 2017 00:47 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) Board yesterday unveiled a digital drive aimed at increasing efficiency, coverage and revenue by arming its enforcement officers with a suite of software applications. 

Known as the ETF Inspection System Application (EISA), the Finance Ministry-funded program will give individual officers, who hitherto went in blind to the field with little to no information, a complete profile of the companies they’re investigating.

According to Consultant Shiham Thabreez, who spoke at a launch ceremony held in Colombo, EISA was developed with three expected outcomes: an increase in island wide coverage of ETF-registered employers and members, an increase in revenue through targeted oriented inspection planning, an improved compliance rate of individual enforcement officers in addition to increased transparency, efficiency and accountability.

“We’ll also be developing a collaborative mechanism to register migrant workers and the self-employed,” he said.

EISA, whose pilot phase was funded by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) last year, will serve as a platform to share data with the EPF, the Labour Department and all other government departments, said Thabreez. It is expected to complement the development of the country’s employment profile, he said.

“This will also give you an opportunity to build an employee-centric database to cater to the needs of all external stakeholders,” he added, addressing the gathering of ETF staffers.

Currently a sum of Rs. 1.9 billion is raised through ETF contributions and other avenues (Rs. 22.8 billion annually), with annual benefit payments of up to Rs. 600 million. The value of membership funds, according to Thabreez, stands at Rs. 248 million.

“Through EISA, we’re hoping for a modest target of 10% which will result in a Rs. 190 million increase, or Rs. 2.2 billion annually,” he said.

Over the next year, the ETF Board hopes to cover all 18 regional offices across the island, with EISA pre-installed tablets distributed among all officers.

Finance Ministry Secretary R.H.S. Samaratunga who also spoke at the event said, this digitisation initiative is a milestone in the ETF Board’s journey.

“From the point of view of the Finance Ministry, this is a helpful tool to track people not contributing to ETF,” he said, highlighting its potential to increase revenue.

It’s essential that all stakeholders become part of the program, looking at prevailing economic conditions, he said.

“This tool is an important step in ensuring transparency,” said Samaratunga, adding that it will increase not just the efficiency of the institute but also its overall productivity while minimising waste.

Samaratunga also spoke at length of the country’s long history in providing social security by way of the Government pension scheme. However, he said, the State cannot go it alone.

“It’s difficult for a state to maintain a social security system alone. The State, employers and employees must all collaborate,” he said.

The ageing population and increased participation of women in the labour force and other factors all mean that existing social security programs must be properly maintained in order to reap their benefits, said Samaratunga.