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COVID-19 Brunei: Long queue greets pensioners at drive-through (2020)

Pensioners in the Brunei-Muara District received their pensions via the ‘drive-through’ method at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Berakas on Saturday. Photo shows public servants handing out pays to pensioners during a long queue at the ICC

BY Lyna Mohamad & Daniel Lim

Pensioners of the Brunei-Muara District received their pensions via the ‘drive-through’ method at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Berakas on Saturday.

The pensioners came as early as 7am for the front spot in the drive through queue and patiently waited for their turn.

Haji Ismail bin Haji Damit of Kampong Bunut said he arrived just after 8am but by the time the queue was already long.

He added that he and a few others were not sure as what to do as there were no proper instructions aside from being directed by the police and security personnel.

Haji Ismail said collecting his pension at the Treasury Department was more convenient, but added it was understandable what the department was trying to do at the time of the COVID-19 outbreak.

However he urged for more counters at the venue.

ABOVE & BELOW: Photos show pensioners collecting their money from the drive-through facilities at the International Convention Centre in Berakas and in Kuala Belait. PHOTOS: RAHWANI ZAHARI & DANIEL LIM

Harjian binti Mohamad Kahar, the daughter of pensioner Mohamad Kahar bin Abdullah, and her sister also waited in queue on Saturday to collect their father’s pension.

They too felt more organising was needed.

Widower Hajah Kahidah binti Haji Salat from Jerudong said the process was clear as widows and dependents were allocated to the other side of the building, which was smooth sailing.

A former religious teacher at Beribi Religious School and now teaching the Muslimah of Sultan Sharif Ali Mosque in Sengkurong, Hajah Kahidah has been receiving her late husband’s pension for more than 10 years.

“I would like to express my gratitude to the Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam for continuing to grant my late husband’s pension to me,” she said.

Treasury Department Acting Accountant General Hajah Chairani binti Haji Sulaiman said that the initial decision was to hand over the pensions at the ICC halls, but later reverted to the drive-through system.

“The reason for this was to avoid people from gathering and for them to stay in the car to avoid contact – except when giving the cash, which is just a one-to-one contact. If we were to conduct the procedure at the hall, it would have been difficult to ensure enough control,” Hajah Chairani said.

She said although it was planned for seats to be arranged a metre apart, it was believed that the recipients would tend to push the chair nearer to each other to converse with the person next to them, which would not serve the purpose of social distancing.

“The challenge we have now with this system is the long queue. Even though we have given a 10-day grace period to collect the pension, the majority came on the first day.”

Pensioners have also been encouraged to have their pension banked in to their accounts. Those without an account are encouraged to open one. Unfortunately there are not much takers at this moment, Hajah Chairani said.

She said this was partly because some were too old to have a bank account, while the accounts of some were dormant and to be activated they had to make a payment. Some were not well-versed with ATMs.

Hajah Chairani also extended apologies to the pensioners who were inconvenienced on Saturday.

“If we need to do this again next month, which hopefully is not so, then we have to think of a way to improve as the space is limited and the number of counters have to be limited – including the parking space. We call on pensioners to come during the 10 days grace period instead on the first and second day.”

A similar system was also carried out in the Tutong and Belait districts but it was smooth sailing as the districts have less recipients, she added.

The payment via the ‘drive-through’ method at designated locations was announced by Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah at a press conference last Thursday in view of the COVID-19 situation in the country.

Meanwhile, in the Belait District, the three-day drive-through began on Saturday at the Kuala Belait Convention Hall.

Treasury Department Acting Senior Assistant General Secretary Hajah Honeyta binti Haji Mustapha said pensions were handed over at their offices previously, while the drive-through helps in the nation’s efforts to combat the spread of the virus.

Held for the first time in the district, the drive-through saw the pensioners remaining in their vehicles while their documents were checked and validated by the staff.

Hajah Honeyta said the Treasury Department initiative has the cooperation of the Royal Brunei Police Force in controlling the traffic, while the Kuala Belait and Seria Municipal Board provided the venue.

“The drive-through is a temporary measure. We will monitor the situation and decide on the best approach for the future,” she said.

The pension payment will be conducted in the Belait District until tomorrow from 7.30am to 4pm.

-- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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