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No stone left unturned

By Andre Bagoo Wednesday, July 2 2014

MINISTER of Finance and the Economy Larry Howai yesterday stated it was his intention that “no stone be left unturned” in relation to a probe into the controversial Life Sport programme.

Piloting supplemental Budget legislation in the Senate, Howai urged the public not to pre-judge the programme and to await audit findings, expected “within a fortnight.”

“While I understand that time is of the essence, it is my intention in the interest of accountability and transparency that no stone be left unturned in the investigation of this programme,” Howai said. “I have therefore asked that the audit of the Life Sport Programme be done with complete and utter thoroughness. I expect to receive the report from the auditors within the fortnight and then and only then can a way forward be determined.”

Howai noted while the supplemental budget legislation included a figure of $38 million in additional funds for the programme, no funds would be dispersed pending investigation.

“The additional sum allocated here for the Life Sport Programme is yet to be disbursed and will not be disbursed by my Ministry unless and until the Ministry of Finance and the Economy and the Ministry of National Security are assured of the legitimacy of the expenses that the funds are supposed to liquidate,” Howai said.

Howai gave an account of the programme and detailed how it moved from a $6 million programme to one involving more than $143 million. He said the mushrooming was due to the programme moving from a pilot phase to a full implementation.

“As you know Mr President, the Life Sport Programme is now under the supervision of the Ministry of National Security.

This programme, when conceptualised sought to teach life skills through sport, to the less fortunate in our society,” Howai told senators at the International Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain. “Cabinet approved the initiative and the Life Sport programme began in 2012 with a budget of $6 million.

At that time the programme was in planning and start-up mode with participants, coaches and venues yet to be fully identified.

“The funding was subsequently increased to facilitate the expansion of the programme from the initial three sites to 43 sites. In order to get the programme going a loan was arranged which was partially repaid and the funding to liquidate the remaining amount was included as part of the national budget.”

Howai noted the Life Sport programme was placed under the purview of the Ministry of National Security a few weeks ago. He called for the public to not pre-judge.

“We share those concerns but we have to be sure that we do not pre-judge or indeed prejudice the work of the auditors,” he said. Howai noted various allegations have been levelled at the Life Sport programme and its administrative staff.

On another matter, the recent report of the Office of the Auditor General into the public accounts, Howai said he had given civil servants a deadline of July 31 to account for all the queries raised by that report. He noted the issue involved the “work culture within organisations and various ministries.”

On the CL Financial bailout, Howai said the CLF corporate secretary has confirmed that no major assets have been sold or are in the process of being sold. He said, however, the company had made moves to sell Colfire, the W Hotel in Florida and property at Tobago.

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