By Lara Pickford-Gordon, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cabinet has approved funding for the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) to run the Centre for Socially Displaced Persons (CSDP) located at the NIPDEC Car Park, Town Council Street, Port of Spain.
In an interview August 11, National President Rudolph Boneo said the SVP had been “raking and scraping” the past four months since the last subvention was May 10 for the period ending April 30.
Providing an update Minister of Social Development and Family Services Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn said Cabinet had given approval for the release of funds “for one year, May of this year to next”. She said a cheque had to be prepared and payment effected.
In an interview on August 19, she underscored that non-governmental organisations are required to provide “certain information” in keeping with the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the government. Crichlow-Cockburn said the ministry was looking at the audited statements submitted by the SVP and the proposal it sent on the CSDP.
She said the ministry received correspondence from the SVP indicating the difficulties it was having and asking “at the very least payment for July to October”. In July, Boneo wrote to the Permanent Secretary of the ministry about the “perennial problem” of the “much needed subventions for the proper and effective running” of the CSDP. The letter requests “necessary funding” for July to October.
A proposal was also sent to the ministry on “the best use of the Centre”, the role the SVP is willing to play and “the economic responsibility that the State will be required to undertake in order that the project becomes an even greater success”. The document covers rations (meals for 200 persons), minor equipment funding, training, upgrade of workers’ salaries and a management fee.
At the end of last year the ministry requested audited accounts for four years but this would have been a costly exercise for the SVP so a compromise was reached that two years would be submitted. The years 2014 and 2015 were submitted in July.
Boneo last Monday said he was contacted via telephone by the NGO Unit of the ministry about approval being given for funding retroactively from May 2017 until May next year.
In addition, the SVP has been asked to provide statements of actual spending for March and April and projections of income and expenditure for May to September. Boneo said the SVP usually sent projections of spending at the start of each month and statements of actual spending at month end.
“We have not sent an actual [expenditure] since May because they had not paid us. We will do that for them now,” he said. The statements requested will also be given. Boneo said a meeting is scheduled with the ministry this Monday (August 28) at which he hoped discussions will begin on the proposal submitted.
In 1991, the Society entered into an arrangement with the Ministry to manage the CSDP with the State providing a monthly subvention to meet operating expenses. In an agreement signed by the then PS in 1999 on behalf of the ministry, the government agreed “in principal” to grant a maximum monthly subvention of $132,508.33. In October 2014 this was increased to $241,000.
The facility caters for a maximum of 200 homeless persons. Their social issues range from substance abuse, mental illness to being HIV positive or deported from overseas.