by Linda Straker
- Caricom Affairs Minister Oliver Joseph said 2 Caricom nationals presented fake Caricom Skills Certificates
- Up to 2018, some 168 fraudulent skills certificates were detected or seized in 6 Caricom territories
Two Caricom nationals who presented Caricom Skills Certificates to Grenada’s authority, submitted fake documents, according to Caricom Affairs Minister Oliver Joseph
“In Grenada I know there were 2 reported cases; in some member states it was higher,” Joseph told reporters while responding to a question about the recent practice identified as a result of a recent study.
Up to 2018, some 168 fraudulent skills certificates were detected or seized in 6 Caricom territories, according to a report prepared by the Caricom Secretariat for the 48th Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), which was held in Guyana 29-30 April.
“That was discussed at the recent COTED meeting. What the meeting did, it took a decision that there should be a security feature for these certificates,” said Joseph who explained that holders of the certificate are allowed to work without a permit.
“The recommendation is that we should standardise the certificate with the security features in it so that you minimise or get rid of people producing fake certificates,” he said as he confirmed that Jamaicans were the main holders of the false documents.
A recent report out of Jamaica said that the bulk of the fake documents (148) were submitted in Trinidad and Tobago. Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, St Kitts-Nevis, and St Lucia were the other receiving countries. No arrests were reported, and according to the Caricom document, “investigations have also not revealed the source country(ies) of the fraudulent certificates.”
The skills certificate is part of a Caricom law adopted by the 15-member bloc to allow nationals with certain skills to move freely and work in any of the participating countries without the need for a work permit.
Ten categories of workers can benefit under the regime. Artistes, musicians, holders of degrees from recognised tertiary educational institutions, journalists/media workers, and sportsmen and women were the first 5, before the list was expanded to include nurses, teachers and workers holding specific categories of vocational qualifications. But like many Caricom agreements, the skills certificate regime has suffered from a poor record of implementation.
Joseph disclosed that an assessment of the status of implementation of all 10 categories shows that Grenada was among 3 member states that have covered the first 10 categories in legislation. The other two are Guyana and Jamaica.
Most of the other states cover the first 5 categories. Barbados’ excuse is that it has tabled amendments in its Parliament, but with no end in sight for their passage. Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname have only added nurses and teachers, refusing to consider the full 5 additional categories.
The Caricom Secretariat said some member states have claimed other reasons for their failure to implement. Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis and Suriname have argued that they lack the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) capacity and so cannot certify Caribbean vocational qualifications. Some countries have also claimed they lack capacity to draft the new domestic legislation.
But the Caricom Secretariat has undercut those arguments, saying significant assistance was provided to member states under the Canada-funded Caricom Trade and Competitiveness Project and the Caricom Education for Employment Project.