During a visit to the mining town of Linden on Friday, Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton revealed that several cooperative societies within the town are shrouded with corruption.
Minister Hamilton explained that after the review of about 13 co-ops, it was found that they were not serving their mandate, but rather, it was being used as a tool for personal gains. The groups received a total of $34 million under the Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) programme in 2019 for community development projects.
“These things have not contributed to the lives of people, and people must be held accountable,” he said while adding that “my thing is to lay it out before Lindeners that they may know what is happening in their name.”
Hamilton said that over $5M was disbursed and collected by Opposition Member of Parliament Jermaine Figueira. He alleged that the project is located on private land attached to a homeowner.
However, in response, Figueira said that the Minister’s utterances were aimed to “besmirch, tarnish, sully, insult and damage my good name and reputation, to gain cheap political points and gain favour with his political bosses.”
The Member of Parliament made it clear that he has never been the recipient of any disbursement of monies from the SLED programme in 2019.
Despite the proceedings, the Labour Minister said that these co-ops should be built on the pillar of accountability and transparency while fostering community development.
To this end, he noted that an audit would be launched in the second quarter of this year to determine all co-op societies’ validity.
“[This will let] know how many coops are real [as] presently we have 500 on the books, but in my estimation, 300 of them are just there,” the Minister concluded.
The SLED programme was set up in 2015 by the former Government, and some $760 million has been invested over the years.