$13.95 million paid for COVID-19 withdrawal scheme

Some 18,400 Fiji National Provident Fund members have been paid out through the COVID-19 withdrawal scheme.

A total of $13.95 million has been disbursed to these members, with $2.05m paid by Government and $11.90m paid by the Fund.

Chief Executive Officer Jaoji Koroi said that the volume of applications received continues to increase.

“To date, we have received more than 46,791 applications. Whilst our teams have been working continuously ever since this withdrawal scheme started, a total of 14,900 applications still need to be processed and paid.”

The number of applications received so far is almost 70% of the total number of applications that were processed by the Fund in the whole of 2019. As the Fund copes with this huge demand, FNPF is also pleading with members to be patient, reassuring members that each application will be processed.

Why the processing delays

Whilst the Fund implemented a new digital submission platform through the Employer Online Portal, a huge number of applications were received manually.

A total of 7,700 applications were received from the West manually dating back to 1 April 2020. These applications have been prioritized for processing this week as the forms were delayed due to lock down restrictions which only enabled the Fund to receive the forms last week.

The same application forms also underwent a quarantine and scanning process to ensure that it was uploaded for online processing.

In addition, applications forms received via the Funds email platforms information@fnpf.com.fj and empcovid19@fnpf.com.fj , are also prioritized for processing this week.

“We understand the urgency of disbursing members’ funds due to the economic hardships that have come about as a result of COVID-19. However, we will ensure that applications go through the required checks”, Mr Koroi added.

Queried applications

Teams have also been mobilised to deal with incomplete or queried applications and are engaging daily with employers to verify members’ details. This has again contributed to some delays in processing.

Incomplete forms submitted by members are missing key information such as:

• duplicate applications;

• member’s signature;

• employer’s stamp or signature or both;

• required documents not submitted by the member or employer or both;

• wrong form filled by the member

“Members have to realise that in cases where their application is queried, processing will take longer as we will have to contact the member again to rectify. We also have to verify all bank account numbers provided to avoid transfer of funds to wrong account numbers”, Mr Koroi said.

Member payment

The Fund has also received enquiries from members about the dual payments of top up amount from Government. The government top up portion is processed on the same day, with the FNPF balance, however, members whose bank accounts are held with Westpac, Bank of the South Pacific, Bank of Baroda, HFC Bank or Bred Bank, funds are updated one day later. This is due to FNPF’s EFT platform being ANZ Bank’s Transactive payment portal, which processes payments for other banks, on the next business day. Mr Koroi has reassured members that there is no need to panic and that the Fund will payout the member as timely as possible. Those opting for M-PAISA payment through Vodafone, Inkk and Digicel or Post Fiji BillPaid receive their payment in full, however any fees associated with this service will be met by the member.

COVID-19 withdrawal closure

“We have not decided on a closing date for the submission of all applications however we are encouraging members, to come forth and apply now if you wish to do so. We will continue to assess as we believe that we have passed the peak submission period for the scheme”, Mr Koroi added.

Members are also encouraged to log in to the Fund’s digital platforms or download the myFNPF mobile app on Google Play or Apple App Store, to enable them to access their accounts during this pandemic period.