FOLLOWING the discovery of what appeared to be ‘fraud’ and ‘criminality’ in the spending of millions by entities in Region 10, under the Sustainable Livelihoods Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) program, Labor Minister Joseph Hamilton said do it. a nationwide audit of all 2019 SLED projects nationwide.
During an interview with this newspaper on Monday, Minister Hamilton said particular emphasis will be placed on Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Essequibo Upper), which had received more than 60 percent of the $ 250 million allocated to ‘ r project in 2019 national budget.
Outside Region Nine, projects were also funded in Regions Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven and 10.
“I’m hoping on Friday to go to Region Five; they have two programs funded there, one was for nine and a million dollars, there are some in Region Three, so I’ll be scheduling to get there early next week. And then for the weekend, I plan to be in Region Nine, because in Region Nine the total payment was over $ 160 million, ”said Minister Hamilton.
Minister Hamilton visited Region 10 last weekend to get a grassroots look at projects; however, he noted that he was unable to visit all the projects in that region.
“I still have to go back to Region 10, because there are still projects where people collected money in Ituni, Kwakwani, and Kimbia. Then Region Two also they have some projects there and Region Four as well, I have to make an assessment, ”he explained further.
According to the Auditor General’s 2019 report, amounts totaling $ 249.997 million were spent for the project by the end of 2019; however, the report said, “it was difficult to identify the reasons for approving the appropriate beneficiaries.”
The report stated that a special audit report would be published for the program; however, the Auditor General’s inquiry aside, Minister Hamilton has begun his own analysis, armed with his own statistics on how the money was paid.
According to Ministry of Labor records, it has been able to track projects that account for $ 234.644 million from the program. Across the regions, the money was distributed to projects run either by co-operative societies, or individuals.
About $ 6,275,029 is recorded as going to Region Two; another $ 13,691,535 went to Region Three; $ 7,907, 103 went to Region Four; $ 12,057,356 to Region Five; $ 209,307 to District Six; $ 802,310 to Region Seven; $ 169,489,990 to Region Nine; and $ 24,211,422 to Region 10.
Of the $ 234.644 million, a total of $ 21,985,838 went to individuals, and $ 212,658,214 went to coop associations. Hamilton noted that the cooperatives were not registered with the cooperative division of the Ministry of Labor in many cases.
“Last week, some unknown person dropped a package with applications to register as co-operatives, coming out of Region Nine, I don’t know who brought it, but it was forwarded to the Co-op’s Chief Officer [Perlina Gifth].
She examined and reported that most do not have all the documents. But the point is, these people are now coming to be registered when they have collected money since 2019, presenting themselves as co-operatives, even though they knew they were not registered as co-ops at the time, ”he said Minister Hamilton.
The minister noted that a Member of Parliament from the opposition named Region Nine is responsible for paying about $ 155 million.
“The person responsible for $ 155 million of the $ 169 million was responsible for the payment among 18 groups,” said the Labor Minister.
In Region Nine, about $ 163.993 million was split between 14 community projects, the largest project was for $ 17.932 million, and was for integrated livestock and agricultural production in Potarin Village. Another $ 17.275 million went to a multi-purpose center in Shulinab Village.
Minister Hamilton noted that of the projects assessed so far in Region Ten, one appeared to be completed.
“Only one project is beneficial, not to the community, but to a small minority of people in the co-op. But that project with government funds on private lands, belongs to an aunt of one in the co-op. An initiative aimed at creating business and jobs in communities across the country, the SLED program was established in 2015 under the coalition government of A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU + AFC). Since then it has seen $ 760 million invested over the years. The program provided funding to people and organizations to support entrepreneurial activities. When it started, the program was overseen by the then Ministry of Communities; however, it was later moved to the Ministry of Social Protection; the two administrations no longer exist. Under the current administration, the program is administered by the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, for which a further $ 105 million has been allocated in Budget 2020.
Minister Hamilton noted that once the ministry has completed its assessment of the 2019 SLED projects, it will also look to visit and assess the projects that will be funded in 2018 and 2017 as well.