In his most recent Press Conference Prime Minister Dr. Hon. Timothy Harris responded to a question from the media regarding the now disbanded PEP Programme . The reporter inquired about unconfirmed reports regarding an investigation into the operations of the PEP Programme prior to 2015. PM Harris in his response indicated that upon taking office he was confronted with many reports regarding many irregularities within the PEP Programme. He alluded to an instance where resources procured by and for PEP were instead channeled to an local Event Planner.
In a news report written in July, 2015 and published in the Observer newspaper government sources were quoted as saying “The level of corruption perpetrated through the People’s Employment Program (PEP) is staggering and unbelievable.”
The Observer News item went on to state “According to the source, “even the smallest bar shops” had PEP workers, some had more than one. Additionally PEP was paying some businesses’ employees,.”
The news report continued “Another ‘scheme’ revealed was that some PEP workers were working two and three other jobs aside from the one they were assigned by the program.”
“These workers, The Observer was reliably informed, submitted sick claims to the Social Security from these other places of employment, yet the PEP personnel continued to submit worksheets for them, claiming they had worked every day for the full week/month.”
“In one case a PEP worker was hospitalized after undergoing surgery, yet her paperwork from the program claimed she had been reporting to work the entire time,” the source said.”
“Yet another form of corruption was the fact that there were persons listed on the PEP who were receiving salaries, yet they were not assigned to any place of employment. In fact, the source, indicated, “we still can’t find out where they reportedly worked while they were being paid”.”
PEP was supposed to be a temporary training/job placement initiative from which participants would be weaned after they had received on-the-job training at the government’s expense. PEP workers made salaries anywhere from minimum wage to in excess of $3000 per month.
Over $200 million was spent on the PEP Programme and over 4,000 persons were on the programme at it’s peak. According to the Caribbean Development Bank only 130 persons received any level of certified training. The main mandate of PEP was to provide training through real life job assignments and internships in addition to in class education and training.