19 February, 2007

Social Security Blackout

Social Security Blackout. Last week I did a post on Social Security. It was titled, “Social Security: Guest Editorial 4”. It attracted some of the most comments of any previous posting.

Tim Hodge is the Director of Social Security. He is a scrupulously honest person. No one is alleging any wrongdoing. The post merely asked some questions about the amount of money spent by the Board during the year 2006 on non-benefit-related matters. It suggested that the Social Security Board was keeping us in the dark about how it spent our money. In particular, it asked how the Board could justify spending so little as $5.2 million on benefits out of a total expenditure of $9.2 million in 2006. It quite reasonably, I thought, asked what the other $4 million was spent on. It compared the expenditure of the $4 million with the expenditure of various essential government departments in the year 2005.

Tim did a long emailed reply, which I posted under comments. He sent me other messages expressing outrage at the whole post and the comments. He is convinced that the Board does its work with complete transparency. Yet, every single one of the other persons who spoke to or emailed me agreed that the manner in which the Board was functioning was a public outrage.

I could not understand why Tim found it so difficult to see the reason why people are upset and suspicious about the activities of the Social Security Board. I noticed that he made no attempt in any of his messages to respond to the substance of the guest editor’s post. I decided that the old maxim that a picture is worth a thousand words applies. Let us look together at some pictures online. I invite you to Google the words “Anguilla Social Security”. Have a look at the first 10 results. See if you can find any information in any of them about anything that would interest the average inquirer. See if you can find out anything about the members of the Board, the committees of the Board, anything on the functioning of the Board, anything about the investment of our funds. See if you can find out even the most basic information. You will find that there is nothing at all published about the functioning of the Board and the way it deals with our money.

One of the first results on your Google search would have been the Board's website. You went to the various pages. You ransacked every nook and cranny in the site. Tell me if you were able to find out any useful information on it. The most recent Annual Report published on it was for the year 2003. Who else but an archaeologist would be interested in anything as old as the year 2003?

As one of my correspondents remarked, “So mucha pages, so little news.”

Come on, Tim. You have to do better than that if there is to be any claim about transparency.


  1. Everyone is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people's idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage. --Winston Churchill, House of Commons, October 1943

  2. Tim is a board member of ECHMB. Not even that entity overhead is as high as Anguilla Social Secuirty. Anyone can go online an read the ECHMB annual reports. Directors should be paid on performance. No report no pay.

    Why is Mr. Hodge responding to you in private email? He should be posting on this website using his real name.

    God Help us when we analyse those missing reports.

  3. There is no information at all on any web site. What is the social security board doing with our money. Why they spent four million on their gym and other personal expenses.

  4. While today's topic is Tim and Social Security, it really says a lot about the kind of place in which we all live. We rebelled against it in 1967, but have re-created it in our own image. Our Tim Hodges are our Bradshaws.

    This is Anguilla. We'll get a report same time we get a full and honest report on what happened at NICA or how murderers keep breaking out of prison or what's going on with the Junks Hole project or why the police officer kill heself driving into the court house like he was a suicide bomber.

    While our government is not responsible for all these reports, they have created a climate of arrogance and secrecy that encourages how people are treated in Anguilla.

  5. Don, I notice you continue to post libelous and scandalous nonsense but not my comments in which i actually respond to questions asked of me. And you speak of transparency, justice, etc. Where are your morals, your heart, your conscience, your decency? I challenge you to do the decent thing and post them all, including this.
    Timothy Hodge

  6. In reply to Tim's last comment above:

    I went back to my email and read them all carefully. They were:
    5 Feb at 21:10pm
    7 Feb at 20:30 with Word attachment
    8 Feb at 11:10 am
    9 Feb at 9:40 am
    13 Feb at 13:20 pm
    13 Feb at 17:10 pm.

    In not one of them, including the attachment, do you attempt to answer simple question, how did the Board spend the millions of dollars in 2006 that it did not spend on benefits.

    I am sure that if the 2006 Annual Report was available, it would all be clear. Only you have a copy of that Report. Only you can offer the guest editor and all our readers an answer. I don't know why you make it appear so difficult.


  7. Mr. Hodge,

    Are you above public scrutiny that you can label these comments on the blog as libelous and scandalous. Welcome to the new generation of ANguillians who know their rights and will not sit by idly and let directors and politicians try to stiffle free speech.

    We want substantive discussion about social security missing reports. Not charity walks or public lectures to glorify your image.

  8. Oh by the way, that's not to say you are not a hard working Director. But when it's my retirement money, I need to view the audits and come up with my opinion of the state of affairs of the board.

    When can I expect to see the annual reports? WHen was the last audit? What percent of the funds are invested in stocks or bonds? And can we see what companies the fund is invested in?

  9. Tm, when wrongdoing is exposed by holding up a light, do not attack the light.

  10. Well, two days have come and gone since this story was first posted. Tim has not condescended to give us the information requested. It occurs to me that he has been racking his brain trying to figure out what sort of voodoo accounting we are asking for.

    I do not know if this format will reproduce a sample receipts and expenditure account. I assure you the fictitious attempt at preparing an account that Tim might have given us looks quite good on a Word document. I am just not sure if it will come out all lined up properly on Blogger. If it does not line up right, the voodoo got to it, and you will just have to use your imagination. Here goes at an attempt to show Tim what we are looking for:

    A fictitious analysis of Social Security Board’s income and expenditure in 2006.

    Contribution income 20,300,000
    Investment income 6,700,000
    Total income 27,000,000

    SSDF 500,000
    Salaries of staff 1,000,000
    Allowances for Board 1,000,000
    Tim’s office gym 1,500,000
    Benefits payments 5,000,000
    Balance invested 18,000,000
    Total expenditure 27,000,000

    From this fictitious analysis, it can be seen that overhead would be $3.5 million out of a total of $27 million, or just over 10%, and not the 43% alleged.

  11. First I want to thank Tim for coming online and posting a comment. We all know many in leadership positions read this blog but hide behind their 14" computer screen. No longer peeping through curtains. lol

    But seriously, I do not believe Social Security has the staff or capability to write their own annual report. Perhaps we should all take a refresher course in business statements 101.

  12. Don

    I do not consider responding to genuine questions condescending at all. I have sought to assure you over and over in the comments which you refuse to post that we at social security have nothing to hide. It is indeed ironic that at the same time you accuse us of a "Social Security Blackout" we have a public display mounted in our office and at the Public Library where all the data you say we are not providing is displayed. You are quite welcome to visit, that is if you are interested in information and not just scandal. All the reports are there, those reports that your latest post says we dont have the skills to write (and which you had no difficulty in hastily publishing). You also have neglected to publish those comments in which I responded to the questions about the doorstops and priveledged parking space and thereby gave the appearance that I am afraid to answer the questions. Who is blacking out who Don? Justice Don? And when you put in your own words nonsense like "Tim's $1.5 million gym", do you think that is in the interest of transparency or decency? For your information, Tim has his own home gym and doesnt use any other. Posting my email also answers the post when someone asked why do I respond to you in private instead of posting in the website using my own mail. Post this please so they will know who is doing the blackout, Justice Don. As to the true 2006 figures, as soon as the unaudited accounts are complete they will be available, I did also explain to you how long it takes to get the audited accounts for publishing in the annual reports. I look forward to seeing my post so that others may understand how it is to be blacked out. As to what you say I havent answered, I did in my very original answer explain that the cost of running social security cannot be compared with that of a government department because those departments do not show all the costs associated with running the departments, while our accounts (audited by KPMG and signed off by the Chief Auditor out of the UK) have to. Instead they have to be compared against other institutions which have like functions, and I again state that we measure up very well against any.
    Timothy Hodge

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Cutting through the verbiage, Tim, the fact remains that you still decline to answer the question. You gave some figures to the Anguillian Newspaper. They wrote an article. One of my contributors read the article. He came to a not unreasonable conclusion. He expressed it this way:
    “In the "Anguillian" of 19 January we saw some self-serving data issued by Social Security. Most of it was hype, but we see, possibly for the first time this has ever been revealed to the public, a breakdown of how their overhead compares with the benefits paid to the people.

    According to the graph, the benefit expenditure for 2006 was about EC$5.2 million and the total expenditure about 9.2 million. Five from nine leaves four. Over 43% of the Scheme's expenditure goes to overhead! I am astounded to learn that it costs us $4 million a year to keep the books and administer this trust fund.”

    The benefit expenditure was about $5 million. The total expenditure was $9 million. He says the missing $4 million must have been overhead. You say it was not. But, you will not tell us what it was spent on. All we ask are rough, round figures. You do not need to wait for the official unaudited accounts to explain to your contributors what your Board did with the missing $4 million. I would have thought that you would have no difficulty in explaining this. No need to go into a lengthy diatribe. Just give us the facts. I cannot handle paper on this Blog. Sorry if I ask for the information electronically.

  15. Why did no one in SS notice these reports were not accessible online? If the online community had not raised those questions, would you have seen it fit to get the reports clickable online.

    Mr. Hodge, please don't take criticism as personal attacks on you. Take it as a challenge to make information more acessible to all.

    Frankly, I just want to be able to go to the website and read and analyse the reports for myself. I also want yearly statements sent to every paying customer. WHen I started, how much I have paid, and an estimate of how much benefit I will get on retirement.

    I am sure if you have a 12 month CD with one of the banks and they fail to send you a annual statement you would be alarm.

    Hire a full time IT person,if you need to.

  16. Don, I thank you for posting the comment. I am however disgusted that this whole exercise has been couched in terms like "missing money", "Tim's $1.5 million gym", "blackout" etc. In fact, I think it is pretty despicable, while you and your selective posts get referred to in terms of "free speech" and "light'. God help us indeed! I was never asked to define our expenditure, you used your bully pulpit to redefine the vodoo accountant's blog from "overheads"to "expenditure" . I do not think this is an appropriate avenue to place our financial statements, which are public documents easily available and available on our website when ready. However, since you want the rough figures, here we go, unaudited 2006: Salaries and allowances of Administrative staff: $1.63 million, allowances and expenses of the Board $0.13 million, other expenses of administration $0.09 million totalling $1.76 million; other expenditure (including the true overheads) $1.63 million - for total administrative and other expenditure of $3.56 million. The latter (other expenses of administration) covers over 30 line items including audit fees,training,utilities,insurance, actuarial expenses, institutional development, depreciation, maintenance, computer hosting,technical services, cleaning, sponsorship, employer's social security,etc, none of which the govt departments in the original article have to pay for. Thus, as an element of $27.6 million in revenue, total expenditure was about 13%, not 43%. Somebody attempted a comparison with the Eastern Caribbean Home Mortgage Bank, of which I am a director. For the record, with 7 staff and rented premises at the ECCB and shared services, their expenses for 2005/06 stood at $2.75 million, compared to $3.56 million for Anguilla Social Security, with 25 staff and no shared services.

    Timothy Hodge

  17. Thank you for the information, Tim.

    Sorry you see it that way. I acknowledge that my cavalier attitude is irritating. That is what happens when you retire and become free of those bothersome social constraints.

  18. Mr. Hodge, Thank you for coming online. I beg to differ with you about this not the appropriate forum to post documents. I would understand your hesitation not to commment on this blog if it was an anonymous one. You can clearly see the owner of the blog. The problem we have in AXA is not moving with the change in times. Blogs are here to stay. So welcome to the new technology. This was a great opportunity to be the face of SS and you come off as an angry individual.

    This blog is just as informative as any radio program or newspaper. I suggest you get down off your high horse and stop posting defensive comments.

    I think Leaders in AXA can learn a lot from the way Jet Blue CEO handle the airline crisis and recognize you are hear to serve people.

    I look forward to reading the Social Security Board annual reports 2000 - 2006. When can we expect them to be posted on the official webiste?

  19. Dear axanow

    Thank you for your comments, and thanks Don for the post. I have no difficulty with the technology or blogs, but you need to understand why I am angry, whether I appear to be or not. On this and Don's previous post, several people, anonymously for your information, put all kinds of nonsense up, and some asked genuine questions. Yes, I know who the owner of the blog is. But that same blog owner refused to post my responses in the main when I was not, to use your terminology, on my high horse, because it didnt suit his purposes. I have absolutely no control over what he decides to post. The same blog owner then contributed to the anger by posting such nonsense like "Tim's Office Gym $1,500,000". I know that it was intended to be a "ficticious analysis" but given the level of ignorance out there I wouldnt be surprised if tomorrow somebody shows up demanding to be shown the $1.5 million office gym. I know that Don is given to exaggeration, but he outdid himself here. I attempted to answer the genuine questions, but Justice Don, the same Justice Don who titled this post "Social Security Blackout" chose to black me out so they never received my answers. How is that fair, equitable or just? Then I get blamed for not being transparent or of having something to hide. Wouldnt that make you mad as hell? And hey, I know that I am here to serve, thats why I do it, inspite of all.

    As to the appropriateness of this blog to post our official documents on, can you imagine trying to post the financial statements here or on another blogsite where the blog owner can blackout as he/she sees appropriate? Thats why when they are posted on the website they will be in a form that they cannot be altered and thus misrepresented. As to the annual reports on the website, I also informed Don on the very first response even before this was posted that the website was being completely re-vamped and the available reports will be posted. The 2006 accounts have not been audited as yet so obviously cant be posted at this time. The 2005 audit report has been received from KPMG but the certificate from the Chief Auditor has not yet been. As soon as it is received and even before the Annual Report is printed it will be posted. Anyone desiring a copy of the printed documents are welcome to pick up a copy at the office.

    And Don, I must say that after all this I look forward to my retirement too, and pray that when I do I wont ever want to feel free of the bothersome social constraints of decency, justice, and striving for the truth.

    Timothy Hodge

  20. Hi Tim,

    Just one clarification in defence. I never refused to post any comment you made. Every post you made to "comments" was posted. The only rule I have for blocking a post is if it is indecent or libellous.

    What I did not agree to do, as I told you, was to post your private emails to me as "Guest Editorials". First, they were too long. No one would have been able to read through them to the end. Second, they were only suitable as comments, not as a new main post. I decide who and what goes on as a guest editor. But, you specifically warned me not to post them as comments, only on the main page! What could I do?


  21. Can we put this matter to rest now? I am satisfied with Tim's clarification. If anybody else wants to quarrel with him please do so privately.



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