Audit into T&T LifeSport finds enough evidence for DPP probe – sources
(Trinidad Express) The audit into the LifeSport programme has unearthed enough evidence to warrant a probe by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The Express understands several senior officials from the Ministry of Sport have been identified in the report for misuse of public funds, misbehaviour in public office and conspiracy to defraud the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago.
The audit was completed without an interview with Ruth Marchan, the deputy director of Physical Education and Sport at the Ministry of Sport, even though one was requested by the audit committee.
Marchan, who had claimed there was a threat on her life, is under police protection after her bodyguard, Curtis “Tallman” Gibson, was murdered on June 26.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar will table the report by the Central Audit Committee into the LifeSport Programme in Parliament today, following which it will be forwarded to the DPP.
Persad-Bissessar said the decision to lay the report in Parliament was in keeping with transparency and accountability to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
A statement issued yesterday by the Office of the Prime Minister stated the Prime Minister has noted the continued public attention and commentary regarding the LifeSport Programme.
“It should be recalled that within days of reports of possible irregularities in the programme published in the media, the Prime Minister took steps to move the programme from the Ministry of Sport to the Ministry of National Security, and instructed the Ministry of Finance to conduct a full audit into the programme. This audit has been completed and the Prime Minister has received the report,” it said.
The Express understands the report was forwarded to her by Finance Minister Larry Howai on Tuesday.
Sport Minister Anil Roberts has been reported by the Guardian as saying he would resign if it is proven the programme which he conceptualised “to help poor black people is funding terrorists, criminal gangs and an armed militia of 250 men in a palace in Carapo…”.
LifeSport pays $1,500 a month to “criminal elements” to get them interested in sports. A daily meal allowance of $75 is catered for, but a contract is usually given to a catering company to provide meals for the participants.
The funding and recipients of LifeSport were identified in an investigative series by the Express into the funding to the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen. Following the stories, Persad-Bissessar directed Howai to initiate an audit into the programme and transferred it out of the Sport Ministry to the Ministry of National Security.
The programme has been riddled with financial irregularities since its inception.
LifeSport, which was funded through Government loans, has cost taxpayers some $400 million. For 2014, the Government allocated just over $267 million. A further $33 million was approved in the Supplementation of the Appropriation for Fiscal Year 2014.
The Sunday Express has reported on the interlocking directorships of several companies which received multiple LifeSport contracts, how the programme paid close to $200,000 a month to cut grass in LifeSport centres, and all contractors of the programme were hand-picked friends of Ministry of Sport officials, soldiers and a Newsday journalist, Walter Alibey.
National Security Minister Gary Griffith has said LifeSport will now be directed by the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force.
Pastor contradicts Anil
Last week, the Sunday Express reported the LifeSport programme has not granted scholarships to 25 members of the programme, which was contrary to statements made by Sport Minister Anil Roberts in Parliament on June 27.
Pastor Andrew Seaton, president of the Christian Victory Academy in New York, USA, has said 25 individuals from the controversial programme have not been granted visas or scholarships or are even currently enrolled at the academy.
And further, the pupils were not even part of the LifeSport programme but are all enrolled in secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago.