Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 28th 2016 Contents Minimum wage still to be reviewed --- McLeod News --- Page A6
Thursday, July 28, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
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From Monday, some 13,330 Food
Card (Targeted Conditional Cash
Transfer Programme) recipients
will be removed from the system
following an audit and update of
The deactivation of the cards will
save the Government $100 million
annually, Minister of the People and
Family Services, Cherrie-Ann
Crichlow-Cockburn, said yesterday
in an exclusive interview with the
On March 15, Crichlow-Cockburn,
through her ministry, had appealed
to some 14,960 food card recipients
to go into the ministry to ensure
their information was updated. The
cardholders were initially given three
months to do so but due to a slow
response the deadline was extended
to July 15.
"And as of July 15, only 1,630
recipients came in to have their card
activated. It means that we are going
to deactivate 13,330 people from the
system from August 1. You can draw
your own conclusions," Crichlow-
Cockburn said during an interview
at her Port-of-Spain office.
Crichlow-Cockburn said Govern-
ment would now save $100 million
from the process which could now
be utilised "purposely" in her min-
Earlier this year, the ministry had
also removed approximately 4,000
from the programme, which saved
the Government $25 million annually.
Thereafter, on May 1, the Govern-
ment put a temporary hold on 11,800
of 13,000 food card recipients.
Of the ministry s 27,000 food card
recipients, Crichlow-Cockburn said
24,000 were paid via a debit card
system, while 3,158 cardholders were
on a biometric system.
The minister said the 27,000 card-
holders did not include the 13,000
recipients whose cards were put on
a temporary hold two months ago.
Crichlow-Cockburn said ample
warning was given to the cardholders
via the print, electronic media, phone
calls, home visits and on the min-
istry s website to update their status.
Those whose cards would be deac-
tivated in the coming days, she said,
could re-apply and would be re-
assessed for qualification.
Had her ministry not removed the
4,000 cardholders from the system,
Crichlow-Cockburn said every year
$25 million would have gone down
the drain. The cards carry values of
$410 to $700.
"Having carried this exercise fur-
ther, we realised over 15,000-plus
cardholders were not registered and
were asked to come in.
"Failure to come in resulted in a
temporary hold on your card. These
14,960 recipients are supposed to
be dependent on this card for their
monthly food supply... you would
expect an influx or a mad rush.
Instead, the majority did not comply,"
Crichlow-Cockburn said that was
the most glaring and disturbing issue
for her as minister. She insisted the
decision to remove the cards from
the system was not to suppress, deny
or frustrate anyone, but would ensure
that any holder of a card was deserv-
ing of it.
In addressing the issue, Crichlow-
Cockburn said the food card was
one area the ministry first looked at
when she took office last Septem-
ber.Under the last administration, she
said it was decided to issue 50 cards
a month to each Member of Parlia-
ment for distribution to their con-
"The ministry was asked to do an
assessment to ensure the recipients
had qualified for the cards. I am not
sure to what extent that was done,"
She admitted there was a lot of
leakage and wastages in the system
and Government wanted to ensure
it got to those who needed it. Asked
if Government may go after the ille-
gitimate cardholders to repay the
State, she said she had not been
privy to such discussions.
From September 2015 to March,
the ministry has issued 3,049 food
cards, she noted.
Public raised 'rich'
users to ministry
Crichlow-Cockburn said the
update of the database in the last
six months showed some cardhold-
ers could not be located, had died
"Some cardholders passed their
cards to their family and friends.
The funds that were placed on the
cards every month was being utilised
at the supermarkets.
"So it begs the question who was
really using these cards? This cer-
tainly was not above board. Of
course, this raised some red flags.
This was disturbing because I believe
there may have been other deserving
people who could have benefitted
from these cards," she said.
Crichlow-Cockburn said she was
first made aware that some of the
cards were in the wrong hands by
"My niece came home to com-
plain that a customer who had a
trolley filled with groceries was ahead
of her in the line at a supermarket.
Not only that, draped over a shoulder
was an expensive Gucci bag. She
was also properly dressed... so you
could tell it was people with money.
"And when it was time to pay for
the items, she pulled out multiple
food cards. This caused a bit of an
uproar in the line. People started
questioning how she got the food
cards. We had many situations like
that," she said.
The contents of an internal audit
in March unearthed that there was
a flaw in the food card system, in
that the ministry was supposed to
undertake a review of each card-
holder twice yearly.
"That would have determined if
your living conditions had improved
or you are still in need of the card,"
Crichlow-Cockburn said to her
surprise the reviews were not carried
out on "a substantial number of the
cardholders" for several years.
In going forward, she said it was
recommended in the audit that
reviews be implemented and adhered
Minister of the People and Family
Services, Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-
Food Card audit roots out 'ghost' holders
13,330 purged from system
aboard the vessel, Early
Bird, keep watch near
the area where an oily
discovered in the Gulf
of Paria off Vessigny
beach, yesterday. The
matter. SEE PAGE A9
GULF OF PARIA SPILL
GETTING IT RIGHT
photo of Jynelle
used in a story in
Have Caused Wallerfield Crash."
While the photo is of Maharaj, she
was not the Wallerfield accident
victim identified in the story. We
apologise to Maharaj for the error.
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