In a Press Release dated January 09, 2013, the Leader of the Opposition made some deliberately misleading statements about the Transport Subsidy Programme which I believe cannot be left unanswered.
I will first take the liberty to inform the nation of what was inherited from the previous administration as it relates to this Programme.
1. One hundred and fifty eight (158) contracts existed for the transportation of Secondary School students in all eight (8) education districts;
2. The application process for these contracts was never opened to the public and was done selectively, by parliamentarians;
3. Of the 158 available contracts, there were many instances where one individual held two or three contracts for the transportation of students;
4. The Ministry of Education had already identified twenty two (22) individuals to be terminated or redistributed due to concerns expressed by the schools and breach of the terms of the agreement.
When the Saint Lucia Labour Party assumed office in 2011, despite serious misgivings about the way the programme was being managed, it was felt that the programme should continue. However, it was necessary to make adjustments to the selection process and implement a more vigorous monitoring programme to ensure that this initiative operates under a certain degree of transparency and accountability. As such, it was decided that:
1. The contracts to provide the service of transportation to school children will be put up for tender and advertised, thereby giving every Saint Lucian an opportunity to offer their services;
2. Applicants were required to submit copies of their license and registration documentation as well as a certificate of character;
3. Due to cost constraints, the Ministry of Education would not increase the number of contracts available under the programme, but will engage in redistribution, meaning that no single individual will be given more than one contract to ensure that more individuals benefit from this initiative;
Approximately four hundred (400) applications were received, including that of ALL previous holders of contracts.
The contracts of previous holders were renewed for a further three month period (September 2012 to December 2012) to ensure that there was a smooth transition and that students were not left stranded during the first term of the school year due to abrupt changes to the programme.
All previous holders of contracts were very much aware, that this government would not entertain the idea of a single individual holding more than one contract, while other persons were left with nothing.
All applicants went through a verification process and it is absolutely false and misleading that contracts were granted to individuals who do not own buses.
Of the one hundred and fifty eight (158) contracts, only forty (40) were reassigned. These forty contracts include the twenty two (22) individuals previously identified by the Ministry to be black listed due to issues such as the condition of their vehicles and failure to carry out their duties satisfactorily under the terms of the contract as well as the redistribution to ensure that each individual is the holder of no more than one contract.
In every instance where an individual held more than one contract, one was retained, while the others were redistributed to new drivers.
I ask the Leader of the Opposition, just what about this is political victimization? If anything, the situation which existed before demonstrates abuse of the process by his administration.