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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Consultative Committee Meeting of the Ministry of Labour & Employment Emphasises Upon Better Working of EPFO

Ministry of Labour & Employment
09-January, 2014

Consultative Committee Meeting of the Ministry of Labour & Employment Emphasises Upon Better Working of EPFO 

The Consultative Committee members of the Ministry of Labour & Employment have called for smooth, corruption & hassle free and transparent working of the Employees Provident Fund under the administrative ambit of the Ministry. The request came during the meeting of the Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Labour & Employment held in the Parliament Annexe today. Union Labour & Employment Minister Shri Oskar Farnandes while chairing the meeting on this occasion said there are lot of things which are still required to be done in the EPFO. The operations of EPFO should be as smooth as in a bank. There is need for EPFO to be employee-centric and for this purpose, there should be a methodology to allot a universal number to the employee which will remain with the employee even if the employee changes organisations/locations. There is also a need for introduction of double entry accounting system in the EPFO. These two major innovations combined with the other consequential initiatives would definitely enhance the working of the Organisation. 

The Minister said Trust of the persons in the Organisation and its reach can be known by the fact that as on 31st March, 2013, 8.87 crore members belonging to 7.43 lac establishments are served by the EPFO. The trust amount has already exceeded Rs.5 lac crore. If the money managed by the exempted trusts is taken into account, the EPFO manages approximately Rs.7 lac crore. More than 3 crore members are contributing to the trust fund every month. The trust has been able to provide reasonable returns on the investment, despite it being a conservative investor. 

He said In the era of e-governance, the expectations of stakeholders of the Organisation are very high. EPFO, though, was one of the first Organisations to get into the e-governance mode but due to initial hic ups, turned to be a late entrant in this sphere. But in a short span of time now it has taken significant steps to improve the service delivery to its stakeholders i.e. the members, pensioners and establishments. I would like to share some of the service innovations carried out by the EPFO. 

i. EPFO launched Electronic Challan cum Return (ECR) in April, 2012, whereby the establishments can file their returns electronically. Once these returns are uploaded in the portal, amount gets credited to the members’ accounts automatically. With the introduction of ECR, the establishments are not required to submit multiple paper returns. The member accounts are also updated in real time and they can view and take print out of their account through the e-pass book system. 

ii. The EPFO has considerably improved in claim settlement. Against the statutory limit of settling claim within 30 days, 95% of the claims are now being settled within 20 days. 30% of these are even settled in 3 days. 

iii. Online transfer claims portal has been launched by the EPFO on 2nd October, 2013 to facilitate transfer of accounts once the member changes job and/or locations. EPFO has recently taken Core Banking Account number of each one of the 44 lac pensioners’ bank accounts. This campaign has enabled EPFO to transfer the amount to the pensioners bank account on the first or second of every month. 

iv. EPFO has already activated its grievance portal i.e. Employees Provident Fund Internet Grievance Monitoring System (EPFiGMS). The total number of grievances in 123 offices all over the country has come down to less than 5000. EPFO has now set an internal benchmark of resolution of grievances within 15 days. As on 1.1.2014, 105 of 123 offices of the EPFO have no grievance pending for more than 15 days. EPFO probably has the best record in the Government Sector in managing public grievances. 

v. With the launching of ECR, another benefit has accrued to EPFO, i.e. updation of members’ data and subsequently proper actuarial valuation of the Pension Fund. I have been informed that the actuarial deficit in the EPS as on 31st March, 2012 is about Rs. 10,000 crore compared to more than Rs.60,000 crore, which was reported in the year 2008-09. 

vi. EPFO has recently launched software for batch processing of annual accounts updation. More than 85% of the accounts have already been updated by 31st December, 2013. EPFO is hoping to complete this work at the earliest. 

vii. The minister also highlighted that because of the reach of the Organisation, EPFO has also been given a duty to safeguard the interest of the Indian workers deputed in foreign countries by their respective employers. EPFO is not only the liaison agency for its own workers but is also a liaison agency for the workers who are not within our fold. The Government of India has already signed Social Security Agreements (SSAs) with 17 countries so as to enable the Indian migrant workers to seek exemption from mandatory social security contribution in foreign countries. Social Security Agreement with nine countries namely Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Luxembourg, France, South Korea, Netherlands and Hungary are operative. Social Security Agreements with eight countries namely Norway, Czech Republic, Finland, Canada, Japan, Sweden, Austria and Portugal are yet to be notified. The discussions for signing SSAs are going on with other countries. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs handles this aspect. 

The members participated in the meeting were Shri Gurudas Dasgupta, Shri. Badri Ram Jakhar & Shri Anandrao Vithoba Adsul. The Members also laid emphasis on the timely and surprise auditing of Institutions engaged in the handling of Provident Funds as well as the issues related with the contractual labour and the migrant labourers. 

The Meeting was moderated by Shri K.K. Jalan, CPFO. 

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