By Tamica Garnett
THE Ministry of Labour has reached out for assistance from the Ministry of Finance (MoF) and the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development (MoLGRD) to source documents that recorded the $250 million that was disbursed under the Sustainable Livelihood Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) programme in 2017 and 2018.
During an interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Monday, Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton, explained that while his ministry was able to source documents for the 2019 disbursements from the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security (MoHSSS), documents detailing how much money was given to each respective entity in 2017 and 2018 cannot be found.
Hamilton said he only received documentation indicating which entities received monies under the SLED programme.
“We have information about 2017 and 2018, but what I have for 2017 and 2018 are the name of the co-ops, the regions, and the point persons. As regards the money, we are unable to find how much money they each got; so we have millions unaccounted for on paper. So we have sought the help from the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Local Government,” Minister Hamilton relayed.
Since the money came under a government funded programme, it is hoped that the Finance Ministry has records for how the money was paid out. While the projects were also community-driven, much of the disbursements were filtered through the Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs); Hamilton hopes documentation would therefore present itself at those agencies as well.
“There was a lot of co-mingling and intermingling. There was money being disbursed under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports for sports projects. In some cases, money was utilised from the [MoHSSS] Difficult Circumstances Programme (DCP), where it was passed off as SLED. But the money under the DCP specifically speaks to what it should be disbursed for,” Hamilton related.
An initiative aimed at business and job creation in communities across the country, the SLED programme was set up in 2015 under the former A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition government. The programme provided funding to individual persons or organisations for the support of entrepreneurial activities, particularly in the areas of agriculture, livestock and apiculture.
A total of $760 million was disbursed under the SLED programme from 2015 to 2020 in increments of $115 million, $40 million, $100 million, $150 million, $250 million and $105 million, respectively.
The capital programme was first catered for under the then Ministry of Communities, but was later transferred to the then Ministry of Social Protection. In, 2020, it was transferred to the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development. In that same year, after the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) assumed office in August, the Ministry of Labour began an assessment of the monies disbursed, and how the projects from previous years have impacted community development. A special audit on the programme is also being carried out by the Audit Office, after several irregularities in the issuing system was detected in the 2019 disbursements.
From the physical assessments conducted by the ministry of the 2019 projects in Region 10, several alleged instances of ‘fraud’ and ‘criminality’ are said to have been detected. Several of the business ventures were done under co-op societies, however, it was discovered that several of the co-ops were not registered with the co-ops division of the Labour Ministry.
Further, most of the projects assessed were never completed and are not functioning, notwithstanding all the money being disbursed.