Minister grilled over inconsistencies as $1B approved for HEYS

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…under the Indigenous Peoples Affairs Ministry

Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Valerie Gariddo-Lowe
Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Valerie Gariddo-Lowe

The Hinterland Employment Youth Service (HEYS) which was executed under the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs earlier today received the “green light” to make use of almost $1B to fund its programme in the year 2017.

However, this was decided upon after  a relentless two hours long probe of the Ministry’s expenditure in the National Assembly.

The House reconvened and resolved itself into the Committee of Supply in order to consider the almost $2.5B for the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs.

Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Valerie Gariddo-Lowe, with the assistance of the Ministry’s senior technical personnel, fielded an unrelenting grilling from members of the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) before conceding to the many hiccups that have plagued the HEYS programme throughout the course of the year.

Launched in 2015 by the coalition, A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) Administration, the progamme currently trains an excess of 1800 students utilizing the services of some 373 facilitators across 112 Amerindian villages.

Funded under allocations for Amerindian Development Projects, the House heard that $996M has been set aside for the HEYS project in the coming year even as Minster Gariddo-Lowe failed miserably to give assurances that the problems that plagued the program in 2016, had in fact been remedied.

PPP/C MP Yvonne Pearson
PPP/C MP Yvonne Pearson

PPP/C’s backbencher, Yvonne Pearson used the occasion to ask the Minister to provide an accurate analysis of some of the problems facing the program, since according to reports, not only have the equipment for the training of the youths not been reaching the communities, but several of the students and facilitators have had to wait months.

She sought to query from the Minster what remedial actions have been taken to ensure not only a smoother execution in the coming year, but for the remainder of the year.

Minster Gariddo-Lowe—providing the answers in the stead of Substantive Minister, Vice President Sidney Allicock—admitted to the “hiccups we have been suffering at the Ministry which will be ironed.”

Still unable to inform the House of what remedial actions have or will be taken, the Minister said discussions have been had, conclusions drawn and measures will be put in place.

She was nonetheless happy to report however, that the majority of villages did not wait for the tools promised by the Ministry to begin venturing out into farming, catering, joinery and other such projects.

Minister Gariddo-Lowe admitted to the House that the progress made was essentially without the tools promised by the Ministry but affirmed that “we will fix.”

$500M in Solar panels, equipment unaccounted for

PPP/C MP, former Permanent Secretary Nigel Dharamlall
PPP/C MP, former Permanent Secretary Nigel Dharamlall

The Minister appeared to be at a loss for answers again this time when questioned on solar panels and related equipment to be purchased with the members of the House at the end of the consideration being none the wiser.

It was opposition Member of Parliament, Nigel Dharamlall—the former Permanent Secretary in the then Ministry of Amerindian Affairs—who told the House that he is aware of payments made to the tune of $500M for the purchase of the solar panels and related equipment.

According to Dharamlall, the items were purchased for homes and industrial type equipment to be used to power the Information Communications Technology (ICT) hubs.

Minister Gariddo-Lowe, reported to the House that the ICT hubs and related pieces are no longer being catered for under the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs.

Dharamlall persisted to no avail as he sought to determine the actual location of the equipment since he was certain that the payments had been made by that Ministry.

Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson attempted to intervene at this point in time but was prevented by Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, who informed the House that the Indigenous Affairs Minister was more than competent to field the questions herself.

Not satisfied with the forthcoming answers from the Indigenous Affairs Minister, Dharamlall pressed on but was shut down by the Speaker Dr Scotland who informed him that “I am not going to have this, I am going to ask you to take your seat…That is the answer you must take…if you want a different answer you have to ask a different question.”

The unsatisfied opposition member again questioned, “where is it, is it in a container, is it in a factory,” but was told by Minister Gariddo Lowe, “I have answered the member already.”

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