Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 11th 2016 Contents 8
Wednesday, May 11, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
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Food card programme frozen as...
Yesterday, Vernon Persad, former
Supermarket Association of T&T president and
an owner of food chain Persad Food Stores,
confirmed yesterday many customers became
angry when they could not access their food
cards this month.
"Some became very upset to the extent that
they became slightly aggressive because of the
level of frustration they were experiencing. We
had to let them know this had nothing to do
with the supermarkets," he said.
the St Patrick's
District take part
in a march pass
during the Red
Page A6. PHOTO:
for 10TH MAY, 2016
Mere 1,200 update files
The Government has put "a temporary
hold on 11,800 of 13,000 food cards recip-
ients" as of May 1.
Last September, the ministry also stopped
the monthly $500 Baby Care Grant which
was the brainchild of former prime minister
Confirmation came yesterday from Min-
ister of Social Development and Family Serv-
ices, Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn, in
response to comments made by former min-
ister of the people and social development
During a United National Congress meet-
ing in Aranguez on Monday, Newallo-Hosein
told party supporters the ministry had
decommissioned hundreds of food cards
given to vulnerable and poor families, while
the Baby Care Grant was abruptly stopped.
Newallo-Hosein said scores of food card
recipients came to her to complain that after
picking up basic food items at supermarkets
and taking it to the cashier, they unexpectedly
discovered that their Targeted Conditional
Cash Transfer Programme cards, also known
as the food cards, had been deactivated by
the ministry. The cards carry values of $410
Many of the recipients, Newallo-Hosein
said, faced "embarrassment" since they had
to put back the groceries on the shelves and
Commenting on the food card issue,
Crichlow-Cockburn said as of May 1, 11,800
food card recipients had their cards put on
"But they would have already received
their monies in April," Crichlow-Cockburn
Monies were processed for the cards on
the first of every month, she said.
During the months of March/April,
Crichlow-Cockburn said the ministry s
13,000 food card recipients who had not
completed the enrolment process for the
"biometric system", were advised via the
print and electronic media to do so.
"The public was advised that as an interim
measure, persons who failed to enrol would
have their cards placed on hold, causing a
temporary disruption in access to their funds.
"If you recognise there is an interruption
with the card you would come in. So if you
do not come in, is either you no longer need
the card or you probably believe there is
some reason why you should not come in,"
Of the 13,000 recipients, Crichlow-Cock-
burn said only 1,200 have responded so far.
"A temporary hold has therefore been
placed on 11,800 accounts," she disclosed.
"This hold will be ongoing until a decision
is made. What I would recommend is that
we give them three months to come in.
Before we take them off the system we will
put back advertisements in the newspapers
to inform them. Once they are taken off the
system they would have to re-apply to get
back on," she said.
Last August, Crichlow-Cockburn had
indicated that the food card programme had
led to millions of taxpayer dollars being lost
and that 4,000 cardholders had been decom-
missioned as an audit of the programme
was to take place.
"The full audit has not started as yet.
Usually we do internal audits. We are hopeful
that if it (audit) does not start this month,
at least next month," she said.
Crichlow-Cockburn admitted that there
were a number of "irregularities" with the
cards "that would have given cause for con-
cern, hence the reason why we would have
requested the audit."
She said the cellphone numbers and
addresses of many of the cardholders were
wrong, while those who were contacted
refused to come in for one reason or the
"That is a red flag. This is food to put on
your table. It should be a priority."
The monthly budget for the programme
is $24 million.
"That money comes directly from the
Ministry of Finance," Crichlow-Cockburn said.
In a previous interview, Crichlow-Cockburn stated
that 3,049 food cards were issued during September
2015 to March 2016.
She also confirmed that the Baby Care Grant, which
was approved for one year by the then PP government,
was stopped last September. She said up to April,
447 mothers had accessed the $3,000 monthly grant
to the tune of $1,079,500.
"That was the previous administration s policy.
However, I have asked the ministry to do a review
of the grant and to make recommendation in going
forward. That is yet to be completed," she said.
Last April, then Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley
stated that the estimated budget for the Baby Care
Grant had been inflated by almost $100 million.
Rowley said the then PP government had overpriced
the programme and was using it in its election cam-
paign. The grant was given a budget allocation of
$120 million in 2014.
With the grant targeting underprivileged babies,
Rowley said it should focus on 15 per cent of the
20,000 annual birthrate.
Showing his calculation, Rowley said that should
have equated to approximately 4,000 babies and with
each recipient collecting an annual sum of $6,000,
the cost of the programme should be $24 million.
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