Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Dr. Reginald Thomas has refuted claims that the ministry deliberately left out farmers from a grant program funded by the World Bank.
He spoke at a handing over ceremony of equipment to farmers on Wednesday, stating that the matter was a “misconception.”
“I would like to correct that misconception, it is being propagated through the media that people names were crossed out,” he stated. “Some people were inevitably left out, the reasons we will have to find out.”
In January, it was announced that 3,932 qualified farmers who were affected by Hurricane Maria would benefit from an Agricultural Emergency Response Grant funded by the World Bank to the tune of EC$18,817,400.
However, concerns were raised by many, including the opposition United Workers Party, over the way the of the grant was distributed and it was said that many farmers were left.
Dr. Thomas said that the information which was required from the farmers was put through a database.
“Some people got left out and we recognize that there would have been mistakes, so we have made contingencies for that, one through the complete mechanism but also resources that would cover where mistakes would have happened,” he said.
He stated that the ministry is aware that individuals were left out but their complaints will be addressed and upon the provision of the necessary information, a decision will be made to offer assistance.
Dr. Thomas revealed that the ministry is currently assisting only the commercial farmers.
“We have been working hard to try to ensure that all the cheques that have been printed … all the commercial farmers that were in that group that we deal with them,” he said.
Meantime, Dr. Thomas said that the ministry is addressing challenges that occurred during the distribution of the cheques to the farmers.
“As we speak we have a number of challenges with the distribution, things like people names spelled incorrectly, so we are trying to address some of the administrative changes that are on these cheques so as to facilitate again the distribution,” he stated.
He noted that during the distribution a complaint mechanism was established to allow for individuals who may think or believe that they deserved more.
“We are also addressing these complaints we have received … and we are trying to decipher them. We have an independent committee set up that will look at the respective complaints,” he said.