Clerks distributing COVID-19 cash grant threatened by residents

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Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall revealed on Thursday that clerks distributing the COVID-19 $25,000 cash grant have been facing threats by residents in communities along the East Bank and East Coast of Demerara.

“Some of the people have been violating the process by being violent towards some of the distributors. Some of our clerks are being held against their will, locked in people’s yard threatened with physical abuse and verbally abused,” Dharamlall told the News Room on Thursday.

The distribution in Region Four started early in December last year and is nearing completion, however, there are reports from residents who claim that they are being denied the money, particularly persons living in squatting areas.

Recently, squatters at Success, East Coast Demerara, held a protest action claiming that they are being bypassed by the distributors.

Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall

The issuance of the cash grant is being done first to the primary householder, and wherever there are other family members or tenants, those persons are being issued with a ‘pink’ form, which will serve as the instrument to be used to verify those candidates for future consideration.

According to Minister Dharamlall, squatters are also required to fill out the pink form.

“Our position as the government has not changed, which is every household who is eligible will receive the cash grant and the primary households that we are dealing with right now. If anyone is an independent household and there is an issue, then they fill out the pink form and when the pink form is verified they will receive the cash grant,” Dharamlall clarified.

The minister said a number of squatters were already verified and they received the cash grant. He noted that the process is timely because it has to be done properly and, therefore, called for more patience from residents.

Meanwhile, an investigation has been launched in relation to persons who collected the grant twice. In some instances, the police got involved and the residents returned the money.

“We have had those reports, they have not been very many because our clerks have been very diligent, but we have sought to regroup those resources, those money from persons who got it more than once,” Dharamlall said.

A total of $7 billion has been budgeted for the distribution of the grants, but this only covers the first phase of distribution. More money would be needed to cater for persons given the pink forms in the second phase.

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr Vindhya Persaud had noted in December last year that some 16,375 persons who have been issued pink forms will be captured in the second phase of the exercise.

Citizens are being reminded that there is no requirement for pre-registration for the grant. The grant is delivered on a house-to-house basis by authorised officials who must be wearing their COVID-19 identification badges.

Two community distribution clerks wearing specially designed COVID-19 identity badges will visit your home accompanied by community leaders, armed police security and their supervisors.

Upon clearly identifying the principal householder, one clerk will issue to that householder a receipt for the grant and the other clerk will en-cash the receipt immediately by giving the householder a sealed envelope containing G$25,000.

At the close of business daily, distribution clerks are required to surrender unused cash along with their receipt books for security control.

At the end of the distribution exercise, each clerk submits their receipts of payments to be audited by the regional authorities and subsequently by the internal audit department of the Ministry of Finance. In this manner, there is careful scrutiny to ensure that receipts issued are reconciled with cash grants distributed.  Any discrepancies are investigated and necessary action taken.

The Auditor-General has also been asked to audit the entire cash grant distribution.

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