While Minister Pauline Sukhai and the Amerindian Affairs Ministry have been mum on the livelihood projects being undertaken in Region One, APNU’s regional representative is demanding transparency and accountability.
In 2009, the government announced the approval of $79M for several initiatives under the National Secure Livelihoods Programme (NSLP) in a joint venture between the Amerindian Affairs Ministry and the international charity, the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO).
At the time, it was stated that the operational budget for the NSLP had been fully spent and of the $79,276,000 allocated for investment cost, $24.6M was spent on the programme in 2009.
Stabroek News had made several attempts to obtain information from the Amerindian Affairs Ministry on the NSLP but to no avail. Officials there have on several occasions requested contact information as well as reasons for an interview but have not honoured requests made by this newspaper.
APNU parliamentarian Richard Alleyne, however, told Stabroek News yesterday that there is need for reports and more detailed information on projects like the NSLP to be made available. He said that at the moment, there is no system in place to provide a paper trail of spending on such projects.
“They need to put in place a system where you would have residents of the community and the relevant stakeholders participating in the project,” Alleyne said, adding that there should also be detailed “stage reports” to ensure accountability.
“This is outrageous coming from a government minister and it’s misinforming the nation,” Alleyne said of the recent pronouncements by Minister Sukhai on projects under the NSLP.
“They won’t issue any report on the projects… and a government minister will just go in the region and say yes it’s successful,” he added.
Stabroek News reported recently on a fish rearing project at Tobago Hill in the Mabaruma Sub-Region, which was touted by Minister Sukhai as being successful. The project has been stalled for sometime. When this newspaper visited the area last week, it found the fish ponds filed with algae.
Sukhai also noted two weeks ago that a crab fattening farm in the Aruka Mouth is up and running, although crabs are seasonal. A major catch from last season is currently being processed and marketed, the government had reported, while Sukhai noted that the community is very supportive of the venture and particularly in providing a market for the packaged crab meat.
However, during a visit to the Aruka Mouth recently, Stabroek News was told that the project was far from a success. According to residents, there were attempts to confine the crabs to the community but these were unsuccessful since crabs are known to move into the more swampy areas during the July-August crab season.
A boatman, who plies his trade along the Aruka/Barima rivers, said there were attempts last year to push the project into motion but he noted that there was a lack of participation from the community while the VSO volunteers experienced difficulty in sourcing the crabs for the farm.
Alleyne told Stabroek News yesterday that as far as he was aware, the crab project had stalled.
He said that while crabs are seasonally seen in the region, there are persons who venture out into the swampy areas for crabs. He said that there was indeed a plan to retrieve crabs but he noted that it was private individuals who were involved in this activity.
The NSLP is aimed at fostering the creation of employment opportunities, sustaining food security, income generation, wealth creation, economic diversification and secure livelihoods. It is being implemented in 15 communities across Region One.
The Amerindian Affairs Ministry had employed the services of six (VSO specialists to stir economic development in Region One. At the same time, some 12 community-based volunteers were expected to be trained to assist the VSO’s in their respective fields but it is unclear what has been the outcome of the training.
The implementation of the projects was approved by Cabinet on June 11, 2009.