MINISTER of Digital Transformation Hassel Bacchus has said he will "look into" reports of some staff at the ministry's ICT Access Centres not having their contracts renewed because the community centres they were assigned to are not yet up and running.
He was responding to questions from Newsday after the Ministry of Education's launch of its digital transformation programme, MoE Access, at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain on Tuesday.
There are currently seven functional ICT access centres: the community centres at Belmont, Guayaguayare, Marac, Cumana and Penal Central; Carenage Police Youth Club and Homework Centre and one at Todd's Road, Chaguanas.
Listed under "coming soon" on the ministry's website are the Caiman, Maraval, Tacarigua, Lisas Garden and Maitagual community centres.
Newsday understands hired staff meant to work at the centres listed under "coming soon" have been placed at the functioning centres in the interim.
But recently, some were told the ministry does not want to "waste money" by having workers on the payroll who were initially assigned to centres that are not operational. So until the centres "coming soon" are used, they are unemployed.
Asked how soon the other ICT access centres will become functional, Bacchus said the ministry is just "a tenant of the larger compound."
He used the Maitagual Community Centre in Petit Bourg, San Juan as an example.
This $12 million community centre was opened last September.
"The facility is opened by the councillor and the Ministry of Sport. We are a slave to that, so we have to wait until they say yes."
He said there are "a number of players involved."
To him it seemed the centres, when they were opened, "were in perfect health, but obviously I'm not a civil engineer."
He said it was because of this that staff meant for these centres were temporarily placed elsewhere.
On some not having their contracts renewed until these centres are up and running, he said, "We really don't want to bring people on staff and then have them not be on the staff.
"If there are any problems with their contract, it should not be because Maitagual isn't open...We certainly have enough other things in the ministry to do."
He was surprised to hear about the issue and told Newsday he would address it.
"Unless those people are not inclined to do that, then we must find work for people like that. These are young people from within villages...
"I have no intention, as minister, of sanctioning that we send people home because something that we've created is not functioning the way it should be. There must be other tasks within that mammoth ministry that we have where those people can fall in."