Minister of Social Development and Family Services, Senator Donna Cox. (Image courtesy Ministry of Social Development and Family Services)

Some of the 1,836 social welfare cheques stolen from the Sangre Grande Post Office on January 1 have been cashed fraudulently at supermarkets.

Social Development Minister Donna Cox said the ministry is monitoring the situation.

“There are some supermarkets repeatedly we’re seeing where cheques are cashed there, persons’ cheques that are lost or turning up cashed at certain supermarkets and their names are popping up frequently.

“It makes you wonder what is really happening, why this is happening in some supermarkets and not at others,” she told Guardian Media.

She said this meant that some supermarkets are not taking stringent measures to examine identification cards to correlate with cheques which will be honoured by the Central Bank.

She appealed to supermarkets to be more vigilant also because grant recipients are being negatively impacted.

Cox explained that when cheques are lost or stolen and the ministry has to replace them, this is an extra expenditure on the public purse.

Following the theft of the $7 million worth of grants and senior citizens’ pension cheques, measures have been taken to recover the stolen cheques and issue replacements.

Cox said the ministry was informed that a break-in was attempted at the TTPost outlet in St James and her ministry had been liaising with the Ministry of Public Utilities and TTPost on security arrangements to prevent such incidents in the future.

They are cracking down on the cashing of social welfare cheques by unauthorised businesses. The ministry has temporarily put a stop to the encashment cheques dated February 1 at supermarkets and other retail establishments.

Reports of fraudulent conversion of social welfare cheques by individuals and businesses are being investigated by the police and the ministry is working closely with the Central Bank, Comptroller of Accounts and the Inland Revenue Division.

The ministry is also continuing its collaboration with the Bankers’ Association to ensure ease of doing business for all of its clients.

Cox advised social welfare beneficiaries to call the ministry’s hotline number at 800-1MSD (800–1673) or visit the social welfare office in their region for further information on the direct deposit initiative or visit www.social.gov.tt to download a form and apply.