Rajiv Diptee, President of the Supermarkets Association of T&T (SATT).

The Supermarket Association of Trinidad and Tobago (SATT) is urging key players in the financial sector to come up with mechanisms to assist those in receipt of public assistance grants and other social services funding, who cash those cheques in supermarkets.

The call comes following the theft of social services cheques worth roughly $7 million, from the Sangre Grande offices of TTPost.

The following is the full text of the statement issued by the Association on the matter…

The Supermarket Association of Trinidad and Tobago (SATT) takes note of a press release by the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services (MSDFS) dated Tuesday 1st February 2022, in which it outlined that it will not honour cashed cheques at supermarkets for the months of February and March with immediate effect.

SATT commiserates deeply with the families affected by the break in at the Sangre Grande offices of TTPost, who are now unlikely to receive the grants that they so need during this COVID time pursuant to the fact that the MSDFS has to reissue those cheques as well as clamp down on the consistently increasing activities of fraudulent incidence indeed brought about in addition to being driven by the pandemic.

SATT takes note that all forms of grants by way of cheques encompassing pension cheques, disability assistance and food card cheques have been affected by these nefarious means. While the pandemic has certainly made life more challenging not least in the navigation of economic activity, we see opportunities presented for digital means to present to the affected persons to transition to the digital forums as we acknowledge that many of the affected are also unbanked by their choice and also by the frustration that accompanies the opening of such means.

Conversely this decision to not honour cheques at supermarkets will also present challenges to those for whom this relief is intended. Many of the customers who frequent the establishments of member stores throughout the SATT network are natively known in their communities for their frequency, regularity and timeliness of encashment. A single form of ID while in some cases two forms present the conformity of aligning the identity of the individual to the cheque presented. It must be established that where this decision has been taken, it has affected a vulnerable population at a peculiar period during the pandemic where challenges already exist at the level of banking both at the individual and sectoral level.

SATT recognizes that fraudulent chequing activity has been a chronic symptom of organized fraudulent activities that have become very sophisticated over time. Eponymously, it must also be recognized that the means associated with a digitization push has been brought forth by the pandemic which has augured a digital embrace towards such platforms. The cost savings brought forth by an organized strategic thrust will in turn adversely affect the criminal elements that thrive off the continued indulgence of frameworks for which it is too intimately acquainted in frightening fashion.

We urge strategies that include the Bankers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BATT) to craft solutions that are customer centric, people focused and oriented to the people for whom the relief is intended. We continue to lend support to the stakeholders and, most importantly, the people who are our customers.