CEPEP’s Senior HR Officer Willa Guy-Straker (from left), Corporate Secretary/Head Legal Nicole Gopaulsingh and Deputy Chairman Derek Ambrose during yesterday’s JSC meeting.

An attempt by the Joint Select Committee (JSC) to probe reports of salary increases at the Community-based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (Cepep) in 2020 was unsuccessful after the Cepep chairman confirmed that incorrect salary figures were quoted in documents submitted to the JSC.

The State-owned company was before the JSC yesterday and Opposition Senator and member Wade Mark tried to get to the bottom of the salary issue.

Cepep chairman, Marylin Michael first denied that there were any increases in salaries but confirmed that a decision was taken to bump up salaries at a board meeting.

“The decision was taken, however, presently that decision has since (been) sent to the current department where the committee was established to monitor the conduct of salary increases for State companies. We have since sent off that resolution to that committee to be guided and to receive authorisation of such,” she said.

Michael said that both increases have not been effected but confirmed that the decision was taken by the board to increase the salaries.

However, according to its own submissions to the JSC, there were salary increases between 2019 and 2020.

When JSC chairman Anthony Viera asked about that, Michael said that the submission was incorrect and needed to be resubmitted.

Back in September the Trinidad Guardian reported that there Cepep’s Chief Executive Officer Keith Eddy received an increase to $65,000 per month.

Michael said she was not aware of any salary increases but then confirmed that she was at the board meeting where the decision was taken.

Both CEO and Corporate Secretary were present at the meeting but could not provide any details on their salary increases.

The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Rural Development, Debra Bacsombe confirmed that the request for an increase was made but that no decision was taken.

“Currently there is no salary increase,” she said and promised to supply the JSC with the correct salary figures.

Viera was also concerned about the timelines of the communication between Cepep and the Ministry of Rural Development. He noted that the Ministry received the Memorandum of Understanding for the increases in salary one year after the board decision was taken but only after it was raised in the public domain by the Trinidad Guardian in September. He sought clarification about the salary increases between the time of the board decision on November 28, 2019, and the MoU to the Ministry the year later in November 2020.

“As board chairman and I speak on behalf of the board, we are not aware of any pay increases being implemented,” she said.

Meanwhile, Cepep CEO Eddy confirmed that there re currently 324 contractors and each team consists of 30 workers at Cepep.

For 2021, $400.4 million has been allocated to Cepep even as the Minister of Finance Colm Imbert announced that the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government would receive 33.5 per cent less in 2021 ($1.642 billion) than it did in 2020 ($2.469 billion).