Newsday – The Transformed Life Ministry in Arouca, which is at the centre of a dramatic rescue by police yesterday morning, received approximately $7.4 million from the State between 2010 and 2015.

The last cheque payment was dated August 6, 2015.

The State gave the church the money as part of a subvention to NGOs. A subvention is funds provided to an NGO to assist in the operation of a particular social development programme.

An official from the NGO unit at the Ministry of Social Development, said all NGOs must meet specific criteria in order to access subventions. This includes being in existence for at least a year, being registered with the Registrar General for over year. The NGO must also meet 40 per cent of its operating cost.

Police at the scene of a rescue operation in Arouca. Photo by Shane Superville.

The official said the NGO must also have a dedicated bank account and must provide previous years external audit and list current executive board members.

The official said the ministry has a mandate to look after the vulnerable, which includes the socially displaced, those in poverty and the elderly. The official could not answer whether Transformed Life Ministry met these criteria and referred all questions to the Social Development Ministry Permanent Secretary Jacintha Bailey-Sobers.

Bailey-Sobers’ office line was busy when Newsday attempted multiple calls. The church, which is also known as a rehabilitation centre sat before Parliament’s joint select committee on social services in June 2016, represented by a pastor and two other people. At that committee, the pastor spoke of working with socially displaced people who they took off the streets.

“I do what you call the assessment, take them by me, assess them with every sickness, every disease, make sure they get medication for them, make sure they come back to their status, the majority of them are suffering with mental illness,” the pastor said.

At 1 am yesterday, heavily armed police raided the church and rescued 69 people who were found locked up in cages on the compound. Some of the captives were stark naked. Many were elderly and appeared frail. The police also found and seized handcuffs, batons and Tasers. Six people including a pastor, were arrested and investigations are ongoing.