Minister of Sport resigns
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has accepted the resignation of Minister of Sport, Mr Anil Roberts. The resignation came after an audit of the LifeSport programme revealed large scale fraud had taken place.
The Prime Minister announced that Dr Rupert Griffith, Minister of Science and Technology, will be assigned responsibility for the Ministry of Sport portfolio in addition to his present duties.
You can read the two statements which lay out the LifeSport story below.
The Prime Minister’s statement on the resignation of the Minister of Sport as published on the Government website is as follows:
“STATEMENT OF THE HONOURABLE KAMLA PERSAD-BISSESSAR, SC PRIME MINISTER OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO AT THE POST-CAB PRESS BRIEFING ON THURSDAY, JULY 31, 2014
I continue to be disillusioned, disappointed and distressed by the level of deception and dishonesty associated with the well intentioned LifeSport programme. The background is well known. At the hint of corrupt practices I immediately ordered that the initiative be switched to the Ministry of National Security and instructed an independent audit be conducted.
After the findings of this audit were made available, I instructed that the report be sent to the Acting of Commissioner of Police, the Integrity Commission, the Head of the Public of the Service and the DPP for consideration. But even as we await the finding of these independent institutions on the matter, the usual duties of the Minister of Sport are being burdened with the mounting controversy and questions surrounding the LifeSport programme.
I have allowed due process to occur, I have demonstrated patient allowance for all sides of the story to be heard through an independent audit. I have given careful consideration to the rapidly emerging issues and have resisted quick judgment and rash decision. The election of this government has changed the political landscape. The expectation of the public that something will be done when wrongs are committed in public office are now the hallmarks of good governance.
Consequently, I have decided to accept the offer of resignation as Minister of Sport from Mr Anil Roberts.
Further I have advised His Excellency, the Acting President of Trinidad and Tobago, Timothy Hamel-Smith that with effect from today Thursday July 31st 2014 in accordance with the provisions of section 3 (9) and 79 (1) of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago that the appointment of Anil Roberts as Minister of Sport be revoked and that Dr Rupert Griffith be assigned the responsibility for Ministry of Sport in addition to his present duties as the Minister of Science and Technology.
The Prime Minister’s statement on the audit of the Life Sport programme as published on the Prime Minister’s website is as follows:
“Prime Minister’s statement on the Life Sport Programme Audit
Date: July 25, 2014
Venue: House of Representatives
Prime Minister’s statement on the Life Sport Programme Audit
In May of this year, a newspaper publication brought to light allegations of wrong-doing and misuse of resources in the LifeSport programme.
Based on the very real possibility of there being irregularities I immediately instructed that the programme be transferred to the Ministry of National Security, and that the Ministry of Finance and the Economy, through its Central Audit Committee, conduct a full audit.
A thorough and focused audit and has now been completed.
Because this programme was intended to positively impact some of our most vulnerable, younger citizens, I believe it is appropriate that the report of the Central Audit Unit on the LifeSport Programme be made public, by being tabled here in the House of Representatives.
ABOUT THE AUDIT
A brief history of the programme is important. The Cabinet in August, 2011, agreed to the implementation of the LifeSport Programme by the Ministry of Sport, through the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago.
The programme was launched in June, 2012, and started in August 2012. This year, up to the time of the audit, the programme was being conducted in forty-three (43) centres throughout Trinidad and Tobago, for young men between the ages of 16 and 25.
THE FINDINGS OF THE AUDIT
The review as contained in the report, has revealed a number of discrepancies which include:
(i) Procurement breaches;
(ii) A deviation from the mandates of Cabinet;
(iii) The involvement of some persons in criminal activities;
(iv) Fraud by suppliers;
(v) Theft of equipment;
(vi) Breaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act; and
(vii) Poor control and monitoring by officers of the Ministry;
The Audit Committee also raised questions regarding possible complicity by officers of the Ministry, given the widespread nature of the breaches.
What is most shocking and disappointing, is the fact that given the usually stringent nature of the bureaucratic processes in obtaining approvals for projects, implementing programmes and monitoring progress, no action was taken to halt or prevent what the Audit Committee found.
This programme was conceptualised and formulated as part of a comprehensive programme to try to roll back the tide against criminals and criminality in our country.
It was specifically focused on saving the lives of young men who needed to be protected from the criminals who routinely preyed on them, and helping to shape positive futures for these young people.
We see our young men as future fathers, future role models, future professionals, who need care, attention and opportunities.
The criminals see them as pawns and as persons who could front crime and violence. To the criminal elements, these young men are a means to an end, and are, in their view expendable.
And this is where I must express my personal deep disappointment and dismay that a programme that was intended to save lives – to build lives, was used by a group of people for fraud and personal gain.
This group of people who derailed the good intentions of the programme, have in effect given their support to criminality, in some cases, rather than to our young people.
For these reasons and because of the very serious breaches found, the LifeSport Programme will be immediately terminated.
For those who really sought to improve their lives and positively benefit from this programme, I am sorry that this had to happen.
However, do not despair. Because of the actions of a few, this programme will be halted, but through other working programmes, we will reach you, we will help you and we will provide the opportunities you need to build your lives.
Further, I have accepted the recommendations of the Audit Committee and the Attorney General has been instructed to turn the report over to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Commissioner of Police to investigate, detain and prosecute those guilty to the fullest extent of the law.
Given the fact that the Central Audit Committee has raised the possibility of complicity by Ministry officials, the report will be sent to the Integrity Commission and the Head of the Public Service for further investigation, consideration and action.
Citizens of our country can rest assured that as we move forward implementing programmes meant to positively impact our communities, we will NOT tolerate wrong-doing, we will NOT tolerate corruption, and we will NOT tolerate the abuse of programmes meant to save our people, for selfish, personal gains.
In fact, if there is one very important message coming out of this Audit Report is the urgent need for procurement laws to become fully operationalized.
Issues such as these convincingly drive home the point of whatÂ’s important Â– and how important procurement laws are to each and every person, family and community in our country.
And while we continue to champion that new procurement regime, our country can rest assured that at every turn, I have stood firm that progress in our country must be underlined by integrity and benefit for the population. Any person or any group who seeks to subvert the law and the public benefit will pay the full price of the law!
I thank you.