Gov’t to take action to recuperate grants acquired fraudulently
Minister for Social Development Marlon Penn said the government will be looking to take action to recuperate any funds issued to people under the House of Assembly Assistance Grant Programme once investigations indicate they were not qualified for those grants.
Speaking at a press conference earlier this week, Penn said the government will be transitioning to a new system of public assistance grants with the Social Development Department holding sole responsibility for distributing grants.
The minister said there will be a three-month transitional period where each grant recipient will be assessed to determine if they are eligible for enrolment into the Public Assistance Programme.
“For persons who do not qualify for Public Assistance, benefit payments will stop at the end of September. However, if any fraud or deception is discovered during the assessment process, grant payments will cease immediately, and steps are taken to recover any fraudulent payments,” Penn said.
The Social Development Minister said he did not want to prejudice any investigations taking place, but he noted people will be held responsible based on the result of the assessment done by the Social Development Department.
“The Social Development Department goes through a rigorous process when they are assessing persons who are receiving assistance grants. We intend that the list that comes over, persons have legitimate needs. But checks might reveal that some people might not be truthful and forthcoming with the information that was brought forward so the Social Development Department has the responsibility to ensure we are doing things properly because at the end of the day it is public funds, and we must account for public funds,” Penn explained.
Meanwhile, Chief Social Development Officer Annie Frett-Malone noted that during the transitional period which is June/July to September, persons who require assistance are encouraged to visit the department and apply normally. She added that these persons will be treated in a special way until the department can finalise its assessments.
In offering a further explanation, Penn noted that Cabinet made it clear that people should not be disenfranchised during this transitional period
“They (Cabinet) have given the requisite support financially and through technical support to ensure that persons who are legitimately in need of assistance get the opportunity to get assistance. So, we want to ensure that the resources are in place to assist the vulnerable persons in place in our society,” the minister said.