UNC demands investigation in PNM’s COVID relief corruption at NAMDEVCO

The opposition party of Trinidad and Tobago has demanded an investigation as they feel that there has been political favouritism, corruption and nepotism in distributing the food relief packages to the constituencies for the people affected by the COVID-19.

Trinidad and Tobago: The opposition party of Trinidad and Tobago has demanded an investigation as they feel that there has been political favouritism, corruption and nepotism in distributing the food relief packages to the constituencies for the people affected by the COVID-19.

UNC further provided some facts on their statement and stated, “It has been brought to our attention via a Facebook post that a failed PNM Candidate for Couva North in the 2020 General Elections at around 9:20 pm on 17 May 2021 published on her Facebook page Sharda Satram-PNM Candidate for Couva North Constituency 2020” –

“Today, 100 hampers were distributed throughout the Couva North Constituency. These hampers were donated by NAMDEVCO, which was designated for the negatively affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

UNC added, “Less than an – hour later, the post was deleted and re-published on another Facebook page, “Forged From Love Foundation,” with an almost identical caption, save and except the words “Couva North Constituency” were deleted. On checking the company’s documents, Forged From Love Foundation, the same losing PNM candidate’s name is listed as a Director and Company Secretary.

UNC further stated that “The corruption, political favouritism and Nepotism are open and blatant. On 3 May 2021, PM Rowley announced that Members of Parliament would be provided with 600 hampers containing various fruits and vegetables, provisions and chicken to distribute to the constituents.”

“NAMDEVCO then wrote to all Members of Parliament on 4 May 2021, requesting MPs to identify 600 constituents to receive hampers. On Monday, 10 May, the Minister of Finance confirmed at his press conference that the government would be distributing 25,000 Food Baskets per month for 3 months at the cost of $30 million. However, just hours after that announcement, our MPs received an email sent at 5:53 pm on 10 May that the package volumes would be reduced by 200, from 600 to 400,”- UNC stated.

Following the statement, UNC stated, “No public announcement was made about this cutback. On the contrary, the next day, 11 May, Colm Imbert on Twitter repeated that the government would be delivering 25,000 hampers for covid relief, a clear untruth. In the meanwhile, MPs, who had already contacted 600 eligible families for NAMDEVCO, had the regrettable task to now inform 200 of them that they would not be receiving the promised covid relief, even while the Minister of Finance publicly boasted otherwise.”

“Furthermore, His Worship The Mayor Faaiq Mohammed had earlier written to NAMDEVCO, asking whether the latter would supply the Chaguanas Borough Corporation with similar packages. By letter dated 7 May 2021, NAMDEVCO denied the request, stating that “the Hampers are being distributed to Members of Parliament only.”

The press release statement of UNC further states, “The Chairman of NAMDEVCO, former Temporary PNM Senator Wayne Innis, must answer why 100 hampers have been donated by NAMDEVCO to persons who are not Members of Parliament, as stated in the letter to the Mayor of Chaguanas. It may seem a complete lie that the reduction in the number of hampers for MP offices is as a result of a shortfall in supply by the farmers, but rather to give to PNM party groups.”

UNC asserted that “We need an investigation into NAMDEVCO and political bias in the use of taxpayers’ money. It is an abuse of process and further demonstration of discrimination in the use of funding. We call on the Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries to conduct a full investigation into this alleged malfeasance and to provide full disclosure as to how and why this happened-

• Who got these hampers? What was the process used in applying for and receiving?
• To whom were they given to distribute and who authorized such activity?
• Have hampers been given to PNM defeated candidates, PNM party and constituency groups or PNM offices by NAMDEVCO?
• Who authorised the truck belonging to the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries to be part of the distribution?

“This use of taxpayers’ funds to procure hampers by a State-funded agency for ordinary PNM members to distribute stinks of the corruption, Nepotism and mismanagement the PNM has always been associated with. This appears to be a clear repeat of last year, before the general election, where state-funded hampers were being given to PNM offices for distribution and not to the Member of Parliament whom they were supposed to be given to,”- UNC.

“The laws against the misuse of State resources need to be introduced and enforced in our country. We are in full support of bringing relief to less fortunate citizens, but in doing so, there must be fairness and impartiality in the process. Failed PNM candidates cannot be given privileged access to State resources over duly elected representatives, including elected Councillors,”- UNC stated.

The opposition concluded, “Critical food support measures to our needy citizens cannot and should not be subject to any form of bias, especially political bias.”