An audit into the former administration’s Jump Start Programme has raised suspicions that some recipients misappropriated government grants, Minister for Grand Bahama Dr. Michael Darville told Parliament yesterday.
His comments came after Central Grand Bahama MP Neko Grant said he knew of many Grand Bahamians who were successful entrepreneurs after receiving grants through the program.
Darville then challenged the MP to bring those names to Parliament. He said the government was concerned that some grant recipients misused the money.
“We are finding much discrepancy in those who were issued the Jump Start [grant], [concerns over] misappropriation and intended use of funds,” Darville said.
The Jump Start initiative was launched by the Ingraham administration in January 2012 to help budding entrepreneurs. Through the program, grants of up to $7,500 were awarded to people over the age of 30 who needed funding to start a business.
Darville explained to The Nassau Guardian that release of new grants under the program are on hold until the audit is complete.
He said the Christie administration is looking at ways to modify the scheme so that it is properly monitored to ensure that the grant money is used for its intended purposes.
“When we began this term in office there was funding put aside for the Jump Start Program,” he said. “That funding is still secured. We decided to look to see exactly how the funding was managed in the past. The outcome of that particular audit will soon be brought to us all.
“We’re learning that there is evidence that a lot of the funding was not policed properly, and so it’s very hard to trace individuals who were issued the Jump Start to see exactly how they are doing. Today in Parliament, I challenged the member for Central Grand Bahama to bring the names of the hundreds of people who benefited from the Jump Start so that we can see exactly how well they are doing.
“We are hearing various different reports. And we are having difficulty [finding] individuals who received the Jump Start but the government is fully aware of how important this program is. And rather than going on the same path we decided to audit it to find more appropriate ways to issue these grants to individuals so they can be successful as entrepreneurs.”
He said the government has not yet found evidence of the program’s success.
By Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter