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State Minister in the Ministry of Water and Housing and Member of Parliament for South East St. Mary, Harry Douglas has called for an increase in the budgetary allocation to Members of Parliament under the Social and Economic Support Programme (SESP), of not less than $20 million beginning in the 2006/07 fiscal year.
Mr. Douglas who was making his contribution to the 2005/06 Sectoral Debate said he hoped the government would approve a greater percentage of the budget to each Member of Parliament to be used in upgrading their constituencies.
“It doesn’t matter if it was still called the SESP or given a name change, all Members of Parliament whether they are Minister, Minister of State or back bencher, regardless of what side of the House they are on should each get an equal allotment from the budget of no less than $20 million in the 2006/07 fiscal year,” Mr. Douglas said.
Furthermore the South East St. Mary Member of Parliament said if there were misdeeds in the programme, steps should be taken to remedy them instead of discontinuing the programme. Mr. Douglas told the House that he was in no way advocating that the funds be used without guidelines noting that the process should be an extremely transparent one.
As such he suggested the establishment of an oversight agency manned by an executive officer with three deputies and independent investigators who were answerable to the Parliament.
Explaining how the body would function, he said needs identified by Members of Parliament would be communicated to the Agency who would carry out assessments to determine the depth of the need and decide whether or not the request for funds was justified.
The SESP was introduced in 1990 and is aimed at alleviating poverty and helping MPs to carry out their representation functions at the constituency level. It aims to facilitate entry and retention of needy students in the formal education system; make economic enablement grants to individuals below the poverty line; improve infrastructural and recreational facilities in communities; provide employment opportunities through sustainable projects, and make interventions to assist persons in the event of natural and man-made disasters.