BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - THE Government has relaunched its Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) to better streamline the way payouts are being made in light of discrepancies found within the system this year alone.
Data on the programme were released by Social Development Minister, Dr. Geoffrey Hanley during a national address on Sunday evening (Nov. 27), where he disclosed that not all those who were benefiting from the programme have applications on file.
The Minister explained that the absence of the files was a result of “a process called ministerial submission, whereby any member of Cabinet could have submitted to the attention of the Treasury Department a listing of persons who should be added without verification”.
Additionally, it was found that there were no social security numbers provided for those persons so that their information could have been cross checked to ensure they were in compliance with the regulations governing the payouts.
“This was as a result of the submission of names and not full application forms or persons simply not providing the same. Three incorrect application information which included names…the incorrect names made it possible for one person to receive two benefits by switching of their names. For example, John James Does and James John Doe,” noted Dr. Hanley.
The Minister cited incorrect banking information as a challenge the programme faced. He pointed to the issue leading to payments being made to the bank accounts of persons who are not beneficiaries. That in turn made it difficult for the state to recoup the funds that were paid out.
Launched in 2018, the Poverty Alleviation Programme was aimed at lifting those persons and households that were in poverty out of their struggles.
This programme would lift the benchmark of how much they were earning to EC$3,000. The former administration had set that figure as the baseline for poverty.
The programme also saw civil servants allegedly making more than $3,000 benefiting, whicjh accounted for more than $50,000 on a monthly basis, according to the Minister, with more than 100 people being found culpable.
Dr. Hanley revealed that his first order of business was to direct the Treasury to cease all payments being made to civil servants on the programme with salaries above $3,000.
Over the last three years, the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party had raised questions and concerns surrounding the programme, and its criticisms were ramped up during the campaign in the lead up to the August 5 General Elections.
Now, revelation of the data raises concerns, and the Minister highlighted that the beneficiaries within the public service received salaries ranging from EC$3,018 to $5,291.
When the Labour Party took office in August, there were 7,469 payees receiving either regular PAP or its expanded arm due to COVID-19.
The cost for each programme totalled $3,480,000 payable to 6,916 regular beneficiaries, and $254,500 to PAP COVID to 509 beneficiaries.
According to the Minister it totalled $3,734,500.
Because of a number of the purported discrepancies, the Government has thus far spent EC$26 million, dated up until the end of July, of its budgetary $32 million.
The Minister lamented the graduation of persons from the programme owing to no case management being provided, resulting in no graduation.
“The programme has moved away from an assistance to a requirement for living,” noted Dr. Hanley.
To continue streamlining the programme, the Government has launched an online website - pap.gov.kn - for persons to register, and on Monday (Nov. 28) government officials started going into the communities to facilitate registration.