|Opposition Senator Shamfa Cudjoe|
OPPOSITION Senator Shamfa Cudjoe slammed the People’s Partnership Government’s method of distribution for State-funded food cards.
Cudjoe raised her concerns about the food card distribution during her contribution to the Financial (Supplementary Appropriation) Bill in the Senate on Friday night.
In the bill, the State has requested an additional $25 million for the food card support programme, Cudjoe said.
She said a “review” of the programme is needed.
“I think it is very, very critical that we review and re-evaluate this social programme. There are many cases being reported of abuse of the programme, abuse both by the Government and the recipients of the card.”
Cudjoe said a review of the requirements for card recipients should also be undertaken.
She said Minister of the People Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh visited Tobago between November and December last year and spent more than $2 million in the food card distribution programme.
“What I was very concerned about is the process that was used because you would be sitting in your house during the day and then you would hear a music truck travelling around the village saying ‘come out and get your food cards’. The Treasury is not your personal bank account,” Tobago-born Cudjoe said.
“At the end of the day we are spending taxpayers’ money and this cannot be the way. That is not the way to spend people’s money. There must be some kind of legitimate process, some kind of legitimate requirements for applicants, not just to hand out food cards on a music truck.”
Cudjoe said this lack of care for the public purse led to the People’s Partnership’s partner, the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), being thrashed 12-0 in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections by the People’s National Movement (PNM) last January.
Cudjoe quoted a Yoruba proverb to bolster her point.
“There is a Yoruba proverb that says ‘the one that is being driven from the village to the town does not know the distance between the two’. When you are spending money and you did not have to earn it to pay it back you do not care. This is public funds, not your personal piggy bank,” she said.
Cudjoe also criticised the Government for allowing the issue of internal self-governance for Tobago to become subsumed by the issue of constitutional reform for the entire country.
“That cannot happen. That is unacceptable...our issue of internal self-governance cannot be absorbed in this whole issue of national constitutional reform. It is a separate and special issue and we would like for it to be treated as such,” Cudjoe said.
She said Tobagonians are worried about what is taking place.
Cudjoe said Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has agreed to meet with THA Chief Secretary Orville London to discuss the issue of internal self-governance and she hoped the discussions would be fruitful.