Billions wasted on social intervention programmes
PROFESSOR of Caribbean sustainable development at The University of the West Indies Anthony Clayton has described as harrowing the results of a report by think tank Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI), which indicated that the majority of social intervention programmes for at-risk groups into which billions of taxpayer dollars were funnelled were not being monitored or evaluated.
According to Professor Clayton it was suspected that “a great deal of money is suspected to have been misspent and misallocated”.
In the findings of the latest study ‘Testing, Testing: Challenges to Measuring Social Programmes for At-Risk Youth’ unveiled Tuesday evening, between fiscal years 2007/08 and 2017/18 an estimated $387 billion was spent on youth programmes. Comparatively for the same time period $898 billion was spent on education, yet the entity pointed out that Jamaica continues to experience some of the highest rates of crime and violence in the world and has the highest per capita murder rate in the Latin American and Caribbean region.
Between 2013 and 2018, males under the age of 35 represented 77 per cent of those arrested and charged with a category one crimes. This population also accounted for 80 per cent of homicides.
“This report is one of the most depressing I have read in a long time. Everything in here we’ve pretty much known, but to see the numbers was really quite harrowing. One key takeaway from this report is that over a 10-year period, 2007 to 2017, we spent $342 billion of Jamaican taxpayers’ money… and most of this has been absolutely useless, and we know this because none of this seems to have had any effect on the key indicators like the level of homicide,” Professor Clayton pointed out.
“The poor are still with us, the rate of violent crime has not gone down and now when we read this report we now start to understand why. Most of these projects, and there have been hundreds of them, are not synchronised; they are not coordinated and for all we know are misappropriated and misspent.
“One of the key findings is that in the majority of cases there was no monitoring, no evaluation and there was no attempt to establish baseline data, and if you don’t have baseline data you have no idea as to whether your intervention was effective or not,” he said, further.
“This is a terrible indictment; it’s a betrayal of the taxpayers who finance this. But even worse, it is a betrayal of the intended beneficiaries, all the people who are still in poverty, who are still suffering from lack of opportunity, still suffering from violence, who should have benefited and did not do so because of the money being misallocated,” Professor Clayton stated.
He further called for an independent body to be established and charged with evaluating all social intervention programmes.
“Ineffective programmes should be de-funded and the money should be reallocated to programmes that have demonstrated effectiveness. There are projects we believe are working,” he told the forum.
National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, addressing the forum, described as “frightening” the lack of baseline data. Dr Chang, who also noted that billions of dollars have been spent on social intervention programmes, said he was in agreement that the results do not reflect the expenditure.
“Instead, where they have failed there is a call for more money… the Government has recognised this and [is taking] steps to address [it]; clearly the amount of money we have spent over the last decade has not had any impact,” Dr Chang said.
CAPRI on Tuesday said of the 10 programmes examined eight had frameworks while two had none. It said the weakest programmes appeared to be those that were Government-run, funded and implemented. It recommended, among other things, the creation and maintenance of a central coordination unit for social or anti-violence interventions within the Citizens Security and Justice Programme (CSJ) secretariat.
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