Prime Minister Harris Dispels Falsehoods Surrounding the Government’s Hurricane Rehabilitation Programme

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, October 4, 2018 (Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister) – Assisting 1,432 households in St. Kitts, the widely acclaimed Hurricane Rehabilitation Programme has been described by Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris as the most comprehensive response ever to the needs of individuals affected by hurricanes in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Notwithstanding the significant impact of this programme to the housing stock in the country, Prime Minister Harris was forced to respond to malicious and false information being propagated by Opposition elements surrounding the management of the programme.

Speaking at his press conference held at the Parliamentary Lounge at Government Headquarters today (October 4), the prime minister said his Cabinet was careful to put effective controls in place to prevent mismanagement within the household assistance programme.

Dr. Harris disclosed that persons who are benefiting from the Hurricane Rehabilitation Programme are those persons who reported damages to their homes to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Ministry of Finance. Additionally, some persons were recommended for action by churches and the Social Welfare Department.

“Whatever mode an applicant comes to the system, that application is subject to screening and independent verification to determine its bona fides,” Prime Minister Harris insisted.

“Independent and knowledgeable persons attached to the Public Works Department and the Sustainable Development Ministry review each application and determine the genuineness and the reasonableness of any estimates of damage. For full transparency…the obligation of preparing the contracts resides with Mr. George Gilbert. Mr. Gilbert is an engineer I am advised, a quantity surveyor and he formerly acted as the Director of Public Works. Mr. Gilbert himself, while he prepares the contracts, he doesn’t sign off on them; he has to send them to the chair of the committee [Mr. Osbert DeSuza] who will then make that final determination,” Dr. Harris said, while noting that this process is one that can withstand scrutiny.

With respect to the ordering of materials for the repairs, the prime minister reiterated that no building supplier has the authority to issue materials based on hearsay or on presentation by a prospective beneficiary. He stated that every order has to be validated by signature of the assigned technical officer and the Chair of the Committee.

The suppliers involved in the Hurricane Rehabilitation Programme are TDC, SL Horsford, Builders Paradise and Ricardo Home Center, and according to Prime Minister Harris, “All of these suppliers are well acquainted with the government’s ordering system; they know how an order is authenticated and therefore validly represents a transaction from the government and we expect that they would comply with the established protocols and of course, if they are found to have breached any, the consequences would be most serious.”

Describing the programme as a “wonderful” intervention on behalf of the people, the St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister said he was heartened by the testimonies from several recipients of this household assistance programme.

Dr. Harris said, “The testimonies I have heard personally from persons such as Pastor Williams, Starshield in Sandy Point, Carol Freeman and Agatha Douglas of St. Paul’s, Josephine Bradshaw and William Jefferson of Parsons, Austin Dickenson and Lionel French of Saddlers speak volumes to its beneficial impact. These persons and over 1400 more are excellent witnesses to Team Unity being at work for our people.”

As an additional safeguard and in keeping with its practice of good governance, the Government has contracted an external auditor to do a review of the process and the outcomes in due course, thereby bringing the highest level of assurance on the propriety of the programme.

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