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‘Loose’ arrangements in constituency councils

Something needs to be done about the “loose” arrangements governing the operations of Barbados’ 30 constituency councils, which receive $3 million in state support.

St. Michael East MP Trevor Prescod made that call today as members of the House of Assembly debated and approved the Social Investment Fund Repeal Act 2013.

The Shadow Minister of Housing, Lands and Urban Development said: “The point that I am making here, and I don’t want to be argumentative, … is that we need to, rather than just concentrate on being more efficient, … have a comprehensive package on how we intend to address all the different social funds that are coming from the various departments…

“And if you had done a thorough, a consummate job in assessing the system as it stands at present, one of the departments that is loose in spending government funding is the $3 million that is allocated to the constituency councils across Barbados.

“And all I am saying to you, without making a fuss on this specific issue, is that I think that while we might allow this one to pass through, … I think in the future we need to look at these things in a very consummate way and come back with a comprehensive mechanism that could address the issues that we are talking about and have a solid understanding of what it is we want to achieve,” he added.

Prescod was speaking in the context of the decision to repeal the Social Investment Fund, which the Opposition Barbados Labour Party argued was serving a useful purpose of helping to fight poverty by empowering Barbadian communities.

Acknowledging that his organisation, the Israel Lovell Foundation, was a past beneficiary of such funding, the MP advised that “in the future let us spend a little more time and do the Government’s business in a very serious way and avoid these kind of cosmetic exercises…

“All that we are doing here today is going through a ritual,” Prescod said.

“If you are saying to me that you are duplicating the same function in different departments and you believe that you ought to bring all of these things within a given framework under one specific ministry then my view is that you ought to be very clear on what it is that you really want to achieve.

“You can’t say this but then on the other hand you have a loose arrangement in the form of a constituency council, which attempts to address the same objectives of providing not only grants and assistance to the vulnerable, but also allowing that finance to go all over the place.”

This, he added, was “to the point where the auditor general is saying to us that we have not had any financial statements from the constituency councils, at least to give us some assurance of the checks and balances in how money was spent underneath the community councils”. (SC)

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