Last update: 05-Dec-2013 3:57 pm
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Minister orders food card probe
Minister of the People Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh has launched an investigation into allegations of a TT food card racket at his ministry. Ramadharsingh ordered the investigation after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar expressed concern about claims by Independent Liberal Party (ILP) interim leader Jack Warner that some cards were being used to purchase food items for weddings and river limes.
There are 40,000 permanent and 2,000 temporary card holders in the programme. The ministry gives out $410, $550 and $700 cards to families in distress and MPs can also access 50 temporary cards a month. “If in fact those things had occurred I would like to see the information for it. The only time that came to my attention is when I saw the allegations being made. No one seems to have any information on that...not even correspondence to that effect,” Ramadharsingh told the Sunday Guardian.
Since the allegations , Ramadharsingh said the department has been even more cautious. “Everyone knows they have to be very careful in the way they dispense public funds,” he said He promised to take action if any of his 174 food card officers and regional coordinators demonstrate errant behaviour.
In the last 30 months, four employees of the TT card department have been fired for different reasons. One employee was sacked shortly after Ramadharsingh was appointed minister, while three others were sent home last year. Approximately 2,000 families who depended on the food cards voluntarily returned their cards after improving their standard of living by finding sustainable jobs, Ramadharsingh said. He said 40,000 food card holders is “a reasonable figure” in a population of 1.3 million.
Ramadharsingh said if there are instances of people not deserving of the cards “we treat with it.” “People do give false information,” he said. Some say they are unemployed and parents of several children, but when food card officers visit their homes, they see otherwise, Ramadharsingh explained. Ramadharsingh said 6,000 cards were pulled from the system over the last three years—4,000 in 2010 which were issued under the PNM and 2,000 in the last 30 months under the PP Government.
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