Despite an allocation of $8 million for this fiscal year, the Community-Based Environmental and Protection Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) in Tobago has still been able to move away from its core function of environmental maintenance to the areas of agriculture and business development.
So said CEPEP chairman Ashton Ford, who met with officials of the programme, last Monday, at the Division of Community Development, Enterprise Development and Labour, Montessori Drive, Glen Road, Tobago.
Ford, the first CEPEP chairman to visit the island under the Dr Keith Rowley administration, told Sunday Newsday he was impressed by the reports he has received about the programme.
"They have been getting good reviews from the people and NGOs because they do a lot of work in the communities. they also go beyond the concept of CEPEP because they are involved in business development. They are not your ordinary CEPEP company as such. They go outside of that."
CEPEP Tobago currently has some 437 people employed with the programme, comprising foremen, checkers and skilled and semi-skilled workers.
Ford, who met with the division's secretary Marslyn Melville-Jack and CEPEP coordinator Janelle Berkley, said the skilled and unskilled workers involved in the programme were also benefiting from several workshops and training programmes.
Ford said he is expected to receive a comprehensive report about CEPEP's performance in Tobago, which will be presented to the board at its next meeting on February 21.
He told Sunday Newsday: "From the reports I am getting they are doing an excellent job although there is room for improvement as regards wages for the skilled and unskilled workers, as is the case in Trinidad."
Ford said the CEPEP on the island has been able to supplement its allocation to carry out the programme's agenda.
"The releases they get is not sufficient but they are able to fill the gap. But when I get the report from the head of CEPEP, I would be able to go into more detail as to the operations, cost factor and see where improvements can be made."
Ford said he came away from the meeting "knowing that they did their best under the circumstances under which they operate."
Ford replaced Clyde Paul as CEPEP chairman in May 2018.