|Vernella Alleyne Toppin|
Minister in the Ministry of the People and Social Development Vernella Alleyne-Toppin has shot back at the Opposition People’s National Movement, saying that the name rise up, which is a component of The Conditional Cash Transfer Programme (TCCTP), has no political connotations.
The programme’s name was changed from STEP UP to RISE UP (Rights of Individuals to Social Economic Security-Univeral Prosperity) by the People’s Partnership when it came into office in 2010.
In defending the name-change in Parliament Monday, Alleyne-Toppin said:
“The STEP UP name that was instituted by the PNM came in the 2006, close to the 2007 elections, following on an advertisement that said “We are stepping up with Prime Minister Manning.”
Just last week, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley claimed the programme was being used as a political tool but Alleyne-Toppin again denied this as well as reports that the Prime Minister, in her portfolio as Minister of the People and Social Development, was handpicking activists for the programme.
She said when the Government inherited the TCCTP, the Auditor General’s report pointed to gross mismanagement on the part of the PNM.
She said the report noted that critical components of the TCCTP were ignored, the self-sufficiency of beneficiaries was not realised and that the debit card monitoring and evaluation received insufficient priority.
Alleyne-Toppin said the report also recommended that the Ministry should revisit the approval process because 639 cases of duplication among processed applications were not detected since March 2008.
“This means two debit cards were produced for each of these persons—a clear indication of mismanagement of public funds, negligence and corruption by the previous administration,” she said.
She said Rowley, who made a series of allegations about the programme, was a senior member of the Cabinet at that time.
“He was there, he would have reviewed the Cabinet Note and would have been part of the approval procedure and subsequent monitoring reports,” Alleyne-Toppin said.
She noted that the Auditor General’s report revealed that the previous Government spent $228.5 milion on the 17, 023 people transferred from the Social Help and Rehabilitative Effort (SHARE) Programme to STEP UP in just two years.
She said this is a far cry from the $223 million the People’s Partnership is now spending on 50, 000 families annually.