Finance and Public Service Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw, has warned that the Ministry will be increasing its vigilance of the activities of philanthropic and charitable organisations that are benefitting from duty waivers on imports, which they have indicated, are to benefit persons in need of assistance.
Speaking at a US$2.49 million ($215 million) grant signing ceremony for the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) at the Ministry’s Heroes Circle offices last Friday (July 9), Mr. Shaw, in pointing out that these organisations benefit from the “largest group of waivers that I sign on a daily basis”, alluded to what he said were incidents of provisions not being channelled to the intended beneficiaries.
“The waivers run into multi-billions of dollars.on a wide range of items, not just food, but other durables like mattresses and other critical things. We have to remind these agencies that to get these concessions from the government, that they must ensure that they put the systems in place that ensure that the assistance reaches into the hands and homes of those who are genuinely in need. From time to time, there has been more than anecdotal information that goods that ought to be in the hands of those who are genuinely in need, end up in the market place,” the Minister said.
In sounding the warning of the Ministry’s ramped up vigilance and monitoring, Mr. Shaw indicated that the Revenue Protection Division (RPD), for which he has ministerial responsibility, has been directed to conduct “occasional audits” to ensure the provisions are being properly channelled.
The Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF) has provided the US$2.49 million grant, which will significantly boost funding provisions for PATH, which is administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
Some 10,000 of Jamaica’s population deemed poor, elderly and disabled, who were not previously on PATH, will benefit from the grant, which will be administered by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank).
PATH aims to address the needs of individuals deemed most marginalised, including the poor, elderly and disabled, by providing benefits in the form of cash grants and other provisions. More than 400,000 Jamaicans, comprising students and adults, currently receive benefits under PATH, through the programme’s cash grant facility and school feeding provision.
Meanwhile, Labour and Social Security Minister, Hon. Pearnel Charles, who also spoke at the signing, informed that the qualifying criteria for PATH benefits has been modified to enable more persons in need, to access provisions.
“When we came into office, there were thousands of persons who were registered, but were not put into the programme because the standard of evaluation was, in my opinion, too high. We have re-evaluated the standard under which one can get on the programme, and all those persons who were on file, but not qualified, became qualified, (and) they were brought into the programme,” he said.
The Minister informed of instances where persons owning refrigerators, stoves, televisions and even their own homes, were deemed ineligible for benefits by assessment officers because of their assets.
“We discovered that.when we get into the homes that they purchased., they have no mattress, no running water, or any food, (despite purchasing) a home for about $6,000, 30 years ago. The Prime Minister (the Hon. Bruce Golding) did request, and the World Bank accepted, that we re-look at how people are qualified for the programme. So no longer (does) somebody, who gets a. stove or a fridge, and. who has that in their home (automatically) not qualify,” Mr. Charles pointed out.
He indicated that provisions are also available for the homeless.