Years of Crucial Information Now Seconds Away for Albania’s Pensioners
August 16, 2013
Vital information is now seconds away from those who need it most in Albania, where a new project is organizing decades of papers involving pensions, social security, and other benefits, which tens of thousands of the country’s retirees depend on.
“After cleaning up, dusting, and taking out all the metallic things, and disinfecting, they are going to be scanned,” explained Astrit Hado, Deputy Director of Albania’s General Social Insurance Institute, which oversees the World Bank-supported project.
He spoke as he waded through storerooms full of thousands of registrars and payrolls, handwritten and dating back to 1947, when social security in the former communist country first began.
Many of the documents were damaged by the elements over the years, he explained, and others had been falsified by some trying to cheat the system during the chaotic years of Albania’s transformation from Communism to Democracy in the early 1990’s.
The digitalization of the process ensures that all beneficiaries can access the system anytime and see how much social security they have paid and how much they are due.
Now, under the Social Services Delivery Project, Albania’s Ministry of Labor is archiving the documents, digitalizing them, and putting them online so that pensioners and other beneficiaries can easily access them.
“The digitalization of the process ensures that all beneficiaries can access the system anytime and see how much social security they have paid and how much they are due,” said the Social Insurance Institute’s Director General, Vjollca Braho. She estimated that there were about 80 million pages to go through.
Under the project, a brand new state-of- the-art archive was built for all files related to long-term benefits, including old-age pension, family, and disability pension. The archive will also house all short-term benefits, as well as the files for deceased pensioners.
Specialists like Fatmir Calamani are now busy carefully verifying these documents, one page at a time, at the new archives on the outskirts of the capital Tirana.
“What we sometimes find is that there is missing information about when exactly the pensioner stopped working, or we find that there are amendments there that should not have been made,” said Calamani.
Once verified, the information goes to IT technicians who scan and upload the data onto the new archive’s huge central server, which is linked to the country’s major social security offices.
This digitalization will be a very good thing. There is no need to go from one office to another.
The original handwritten documents are stored in the new archive’s temperature controlled, fire-proof rooms.
The new system means state pensioners – or other people receiving state benefits – can now access their pension information in minutes, online, instead of having to travel to regional offices across the country, or have long wait times at government offices to get it, said IT specialist Soni Cucka.
“(The pensioner) can see all his demographic data and also the amount of each benefit that he has gained, and he can see if he had any unpaid from the previous month,” Cucka said.
An estimated 550,000 state pensioners are expected to benefit from the improved access to their benefits information, as are an additional 20,000 individuals who receive benefits for other reasons, including former military personnel and people with special needs.
68-year-old Ibrahim Belba, on his way to the Tirana post office where he receives his monthly pension, said the new online information system was something he looked forward to using.
“This digitalization will be a very good thing; there is no need to go from one office to another,” said Belba, who retired from his job as a mechanic eight years ago.
He said he would soon be able to keep track of the retirement money he depends on to survive from the comfort of his own home.