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Tracy Davidson-Celestine

Casandra Thompson-Forbes

The Tobago House of Assembly’s Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development is investigating incidents of fraud with the application and disbursement of social assistance grants in Tobago.

Secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine said the matter was brought to their attention and it is being addressed.

Sources told Guardian Media, that some people have conspired to defraud the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and the Ministry of Social Development, by allegedly submitting fake payslips and job letters for the social assistance grants, rental assistance or food cards.

We were told, in some instances, individuals never worked for the company in question, was unemployed before the COVID-19 pandemic, do not pay rent, nor have they been displaced due to COVID-19.

“With regard to the question of fake payslips, we have been alerted that, that is a possibility and I have since indicated to the administrator, that there are to be checks and balances within the system, so she has given me the assurance that the members of staff who are working, who are dealing with that aspect have all been alerted and the checks and balances have since been put into effect,” Davidson-Celestine said.

She said 553 persons have applied for grants and she’s hoping all of them are above board. However, she said, anyone found in breach would face the fullest brunt of the law.

“My discussion, my information that I will share, at this point in time, is that I am really hoping that no one at this point in time is attempting to fraud (sic) the THA, or the Central Government as the case might be. At this point, what we are trying to do is to help those who are in need and so we are asking, if anyone is involved in that practice, to refrain from that practice as much as it is possible and if anyone is caught, then we will have to treat with it, they would have to face the consequences going forward,” she said.

She said 553 applications have been emailed to the Ministry of Social Development, as well as the Division of Finance and the Economy, with a view to ensuring that food cards, and the necessary social support services can be provided as soon as possible.