Searchlight on PATH
Edmond Campbell, Senior Gleaner Writer
THE PAYMENT of benefits under the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), is now under a floodlight of scrutiny after thousands of dollars have been paid to an agent of a former beneficiary up to four years after his death.
A senior staff member in the PATH unit informed The Gleaner yesterday that the programme relies on relatives or the postmaster of various postal agencies across the island to inform them of the deaths of beneficiaries before they discontinue payments to those persons.
The family members of William Josephs, who died in 2010, are up in arms after they discovered that the agent was also collecting thousands of dollars in PATH benefits on behalf of the deceased's widow who had migrated four years ago.
Yesterday, the relatives of Josephs presented a copy of his death certificate to The Gleaner, pointing out that they received a funeral grant from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security on March 4, 2010, for their father who was also a pensioner before his death.
It should be noted that the Ministry of Labour and Social Security is also responsible for administering the PATH benefit.
The Gleaner obtained a copy of the 'Notice of Award of Funeral Grant' from the ministry to Josephs of $60,000 paid by cheque with the number - 358990 - dated March 10, 2010.
Josephs children, who asked not to be named, told The Gleaner that they contacted the parish office of PATH on Harbour Street, downtown Kingston, and were given the run around after raising questions about the continued payments on "behalf of the dead" and his widow who is abroad.
The Gleaner contacted Elsa Marks Willis, project director for PATH in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, who advised that an investigation is now under way and a cheque sent out in June for the payment period covering July to August for Josephs and his widow has been recalled by the ministry.
Willis explained that the ministry had no other means of knowing that Josephs had died, unless they were informed by the family or agent.
"Somebody needs to report it to us and once it comes to our attention, then there is an investigation," she added.
The PATH project director questioned: "If he died four years ago, why wasn't it reported to the ministry at that time?"
Pressed about whether PATH has any system of checks and balances that could trigger within a short period after the death of a beneficiary, Willis revealed that the ministry carries out a recertification exercise every four years. She said during this process, the names of deceased persons would be removed.
"There are a number of ways in which we try to ensure that we reduce the number of persons on the programme that are dead."
Asked whether PATH would be seeking to recover sums paid to the agent, Willis said no attempt was being made to recover at this point as investigations were continuing into the matter.
The Gleaner later contacted the agent, Nathalie Ennis, who charged that she had reported the death of Josephs on two separate occasions.
The agent said she also reported the matter to the postmaster at David's Hill District, St Peter's Post Office in St Andrew. When The Gleaner contacted the postmaster, he refused to comment on the issue, directing the newspaper to the Postmaster General in Kingston.