Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat, left, delivers Namdevco food hampers to San Juan/Barataria MP Saddam Hosein on Friday.

Chaguanas East MP Vandana Mohit has come under heavy criticism from the Agriculture Minister over questions she raised about cheques from the National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation (NAMDEVCO) during a media conference yesterday.

Speaking at a United National Congress virtual conference, Mohit said she had been sent two cheques, dated May 21, which showed payments being made by NAMDEVCO. She asked if the state entity was providing any COVID-19 food support other than the food baskets that are currently being distributed to needy citizens.

“For example, is NAMDEVCO distributing cheques and can the board of NAMDEVCO state what these cheques are for?” she asked.

One of the cheques was for $244.85 and the other was for $923.90.

“Is the Minister of Agriculture aware of the operations of NAMDEVCO, which is under his purview, as it relates to the issuance of cheques? Since what is in the public domain are food baskets, income support etc but not cheques, as MPs we are aware of food baskets and not cheques,” Mohit said.

She said the Opposition has no problem with people receiving assistance and accessing food or any type of assistance for their households, but the party wanted to find out if the cheques were another option for people to obtain food.

In response, however, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said the cheques represented wage payments made on May 21 to casual labourers employed at NAMDEVCO’s Woodford Lodge facility in Chaguanas.

“These workers come from the UNC-held constituencies of Chaguanas East and West, the areas closest to the facility. They work as produce handlers, packers and other roles related to the NAMDEVCO’s activities,” Rambharat said.

He slammed Mohit for her comments, adding, “It’s a shame that MP Mohit will use her ignorance of what a wage payment looks like to embarrass her own constituents and refer to their hard-earned wages as COVID-relief.”

Rambharat also sent out a document showing cheque numbers paid to six people from NAMDEVCO. Three of those people were paid $244.85 and the other three were paid $923.90. The purpose listed on the document for the payments was “Net wages for work at WLF.”

During the media conference, Mohit also raised questions about the Food Card programme. She said the public has been told that food cards have been made available to Members of Parliament. However, she said as of yesterday morning, neither she nor her UNC Parliamentary colleagues were aware of the number of food cards available to them for distribution in their constituencies.

“This has placed the Opposition MPs in an invidious position wherein constituents are approaching and pleading for food cards which are simply not available at this time. Can the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Social Development indicate when and what quantum of food cards will be advanced to MPs?” she asked.

She also asked Finance Minister Colm Imbert to say whether the food cards distributed will be a standard amount to each constituency and who, other than MPs, will be receiving food cards to distribute.