174 Tobago claims approved
By SEAN DOUGLAS Thursday, July 5 2012
SOCIAL Development Minister Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh says some 174 new claims for social benefits have been approved for Tobago, as he refuted Tobago House of Assembly (THA) charges that sister isle claimants have been left out in the cold, with new applications remaining unprocessed.
Addressing a news briefing on Tuesday at his Ministry at Abercromby Street in Port-of Spain, on the row between the THA and central Government over the naming of members of the board of the Tobago Local Public Assistance Board (TLPAB). To make his point, Ramadharsingh read out a list of the number of new Tobago claimants for each month this year.
Some 113 persons were newly given the $3,000 Senior Citizens Pension, and 61 persons were given the Public Assistance Grant (worth up to $1,400 according to family-size), he said.
The Ministry’s operations in Tobago have not been halted nor brought to a grind, he assured, although the board had faced several challenges due to the THA’s displeasure in wanting a greater say in the naming of the board.
Ramadharsingh said Cabinet had approved the appointment as TLPAB directors of the following persons: Shawn Benoit, David Antoine, Camille Mohammed, Angelita Dillon-Gbekor, and Myrna Riley-Des Vignes, with the termination of John James.
He said the power of central Government (not the THA) to name the TLPAB board is set out in the Public Assistance Act, chapter 32:03.
He quoted section 8(2) of the Act, saying, “A Local Board shall consist of a Supervisor of Social Welfare to be appointed by the Minister, who shall be chairman, and of not more than five other persons to be nominated by the Minister, who shall hold office during his pleasure and for a period of not more than three years.”
Ramadharsingh added that section 8(4) gave the Minister the power to replace board members, as he quoted, “The Minister may remove any such person and nominate any other person in place of a member so removed, or in place of any member dying or resigning, or becoming incapable to act, or being absent from Trinidad and Tobago, or failing to attend the meetings of the Local Board for three consecutive months.”
He emphasised, “That is the law of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago”. Asked about claims by the THA’s secretary for health and social services, Claudia Groome-Duke, that for the past 30 years it was the THA that had named TLPAB directors, Ramadharsingh retorted that such a practice was never the law of Trinidad and Tobago.
Ramadharsingh nonetheless said the Cabinet-appointed sub-committee which is currently reviewing the membership of all State boards would consider the THA’s nominees to the TLPAB.
The Minister promised to send the head of the Ministry’s Issues Resolution Unit, Calvin James, to Tobago to take reports from anyone who feels they have been negatively affected regarding receipt of their benefits. Also, the public may also make inquiries by calling the Ministry’s hotline at 800-4-PPL.