The Keith Mitchell Administration is in the process of rooting out what it deems as “ineligible people” who have been benefiting from an initiative known as Support for Education, Empowerment and Development (SEED).
Social Development Minister Delma Thomas told a sitting of the Lower House of Parliament last week Friday that it was discovered that there are people under the SEED Programme who “should not be there.”
She alluded to “a proxy means test” with the use of the results from a Poverty Assessment survey that was done on all the existing beneficiaries as well as new applicants that was able to spot a number of persons who should be excluded from SEED.
According to Minister Thomas, the proxy means test showed that 225 people are deemed ineligible for the assistance.
The senior Government Minister said some of these people should have been graduated out of the programme a long time now, but there was no exit strategy in place to deal with them.
She also identified political pressure as another reason for the ineligible group of people continuing to receive government’s financial assistance under the SEED Programme.
“Once we are honest with ourselves… political pressure, sometimes, can cause us, and anyone of us, whether it is NNP (New National Party) or NDC (National Democratic Congress), it can cause us to put persons who are not really qualify (for the SEED Programme)”, she said.
Minister Thomas stated that there are people who receive pension from government and the state-owned National Insurance Scheme (NIS), and even from abroad, but will still ask their Parliamentary Representatives to include them on the Seed Programme.
“Sometimes when the pressure gets so hot… you are forced to put those persons who are not really eligible to be on the programme, and…. those persons will have to be removed,” she quipped.
She said the removal will be phased out over a three-month, six-month and nine-month period.
Speculation is rife that the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been pressing the Mitchell administration to clean up SEED as part of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
Over the years, a number of persons including self-employed like Seamstresses in the rural areas were getting monthly stipend from the State which the beneficiaries called “a pension”.
But as the 225 people are being removed from the SEED programme, Minister Thomas disclosed that there will be an entry of over 500 new families into the same scheme.
According to the Social Development Minister, there are over 5,000 people benefitting from the SEED Programme.
Under the SEED Programme which is considered as one of the social safety net programmes on the island, beneficiaries receive school transport allowances, and public assistance.
The Social Development Minister also announced in the Lower House that government is outsourcing the jobs of SEED Officers and Housing Officers.
She said it is agreed that when services are being administered by government, people do not perform effectively as when they are engaged in private agencies.
Minister Thomas disclosed that as of September 1, the Roving Care-Givers Programme, and the Geriatric Care-Givers Programme are now in the hands of the Grenada Citizen Advise and Small Business Agency (GRENCASE) which is a Non-Governmental Organisation.
However, funding for the programmes, Minister Thomas said, will continue to come from government.
She believes that the services offered through these two programmes could be better, and efficiently and more cost-effectively done through an alternative arrangement.