THA shakes up ‘top-heavy’ Cepep, more benefits for workers

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

FILE PHOTO: CEPEP workers cut grass and clean the area near Back Bay, Black Rock. –

THA Secretary of Community Development Terance Baynes said Cepep had become top heavy and restructuring was necessary to ensure it achieves its objectives.

At Wednesday’s post Executive Council media briefing, Baynes confirmed the restructuring of the programme which will affect 14 workers, all in management positions.

Baynes said, “The programme was top heavy and not delivering on its responsibility. The persons that the programme were supposed to facilitate were at the lowest place in the totem pole, that was not being manifested. So what we decided is that we’re going to restructure the programme to facilitate its initial philosophical approach.”

He added: “The Cepep worker at the lowest point works for $79 per day, they have no kind of benefits whatsoever…

“In my mind, I think that we have to do something about the programme and we have to restructure the programme and so on to bring some relief to workers. I want to say categorically that the restructuring that we are doing will not affect the workforce at the bottom, none of the persons at the bottom there would lose their jobs.”

He said that the Executive Council has agreed to give a salary increase to Cepep workers.

“We are also going to make sure that they get all the benefits that they should get and that includes whether it be your leave, your days off and all those things that the average worker should get. I am giving the commitment and I would be taking the note to the executive council in the coming week to make sure that all these benefits plus salary increase comes to the workers at the lowest end.”

He said the action was taken after workers in the programme were left without salaries following the December 6, 2021, THA elections. He said the aim is to ensure this is not repeated.

“We started discovering some things about the programme itself; we discovered few gaps in the programme.

“There were several areas of irregularities, we saw some duplications, we saw some payments to some 15 drivers who were supposed to have some contracts to move white waste and there was no administrative authority to carry out those payments. In fact, some of the revelations drove us to calling for an internal audit in the financial operations of the programme.”

He said when he saw this happening, he spoke to the Cepep director and asked for a comprehensive report on the programme. The programme, he said, was designed as a social safety net introduced in Tobago in 2001, geared at bringing economic relief to people at the lowest end of the income-generating scale. He said in 2002, it was redesigned and managed by the Solid Waste Company, then in 2008, a reorganised Cepep company, and in 2012, it was brought under the Division of Health, while in 2017, before it came to the Division of Community Development.

“What we have discovered in the Cepep programme, is that the programme has no written policy or guidelines that govern its operations, there are no rules of engagement. The last time the programme was reviewed was in 2012. The approved organisational structure at that time was 59 monthly-paid contract positions and only 38 of those have been filled. There are 568 daily-rated workers assigned to 65 teams deployed in 12 districts.”

He said 58.45 per cent of the workforce are women, while 41.55 are men. He said that every year, the programme gets an allocation of $8 million from Central Government, while the programme’s overall expenditure is roughly $23 million.

“So, the THA funds the rest of the cost for the programme. From 2015/ 2016 to present, we have spent $158,627,000-plus on the Cepep programme…a total of $57 million of that sum came from the central government parliamentary allocation and of course, the supplementary funding comes from the THA. Those releases, the supplementary releases come primarily from the recurrent expenditure.”

He said after looking at the report, it was very evident to him as secretary that there was need for restructuring.