JL's Quick Loan - it's been established for decades and is well known. But less known is a subsidiary company in the JL's group called Credit Master systems. In that enterprise, JL's co-founder Maurice Underwood, has come up with a credit rating system for Belize.
You may know about the American version of credit history. It's a centralized system where the banks and lending institutions have a database used to gauge credit history and determine the risks of lending money to a potential customer.
Well, Underwood has developed a system for JL's which he says has been used by other business. It keeps track of all customers and their commitment to pay back loans and pay for items they've purchased on credit. It is basically used to determine who "malpago" customers or the hard pay starts are. But now, he says that he's a snag because the system's database is growing at a rate which his employees can't keep up with.
So, as part of the vetting procedures, he wants the Social Security Board allow him limited access to their social security database. The problem is that is sensitive information where your social security details are stored.
He's been trying to convince SSB to grant him that access for about 10 years now, and in an open letter published as an ad in last week's Amandala, he called out SSB's Executives in frustration. He spoke to us about his frustrated public plea this afternoon.
"For the last 11 to 12 years I've trying to work out something with Social Security because I've been told by my lawyer and Social Security that it would be confidentiality conflict if they would help me if what I wanted then. Every year or every two years I would go down there and press and they tell me the same thing and they said maybe we could work around it and I tried to work around it. When a businessman give us a complaint, we have to see the invoice, we can't just take a person's word. We have to get a copy of the invoice, we scan it and we put the complaint in our system and when we get the complaints, other businessmen check on it. So if you go to a shop and the man go through our system, we will see that you already have a complaint - you owe. You may have one or more complaints. I've had people with 10 complaints - he played 10 people and so that would block you. So it's just a system of blocking people and making them pay their bills."
"If the assistance Social Security would give you, how would that help your system in terms of improving its efficiency and improving the verification process?"
"I would like some type of system so the information would go to Social Security before it comes to me. All we want to know if the name and number is correct - that's all I need to know. But without that, anyone knows that once you put garbage in, that's all you will get garbage out and you can't build the system on garbage. That's the only thing and I know I might have been over the top by putting that letter in and I would like to apologize to Mr. Flowers or anyone else that it might have ruffle some feathers, but I am fighting cancer and every time I go it's something here and goes here and I just want to get this thing off the ground."
This evening, we spoke with Gayle Ozaeta, the Communications Officer for the Social Security Board, and she told us that while, as indicated in his letter, it is a simple "yes or no" answer for Maurice Underwood, for SSB, it is not. She explained to us that it is a very complex situation because the information being asked for is treated with a high level of confidentiality. She explained that SSB takes the privacy of its stakeholders - who are members of the public - very seriously, lest they be accused of being irresponsible in the handling of sensitive information. She concluded that Underwood's application requires an in-depth assessment at various levels before a proper response can be made.