Breach of procurement practices
Saturday, July 26 2014
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IN CHARGE: Sport Minister Anil Roberts, speaks at a recent press conference, on issues surrounding the LifeSport Programme which was started under his...
PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday tabled in Parliament the Finance Ministry’s Audit Report into the operations of the LifeSport Programme. In so doing, she also forwarded the report to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Acting Commissioner of Police, the Integrity Commission and the Head of the Public Service for further investigations and in the case of the DPP and Police Commissioner, further investigations to see if criminal charges could be brought. The following is the Ministry’s Audit Report.
1.0 OVERVIEW OF CONCLUSIONS
1.1 The review indicates that:
(i) There were widespread breaches of proper procurement practices;
(ii) The approval given by Cabinet was not strictly adhered to;
(iii) Persons at the coordinating level may have been involved in criminal activity;
(iv) There were several instances of fraudulent activity by suppliers to the Programme;
(v) There may have been widespread theft of equipment from the Programme;
(vi) There may have been breaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act;
(vii) Exorbitant and questionable payments were made in several instances; and
(viii) There was poor control and monitoring of the Programme by the Ministry of Sport.
1.2 Given the widespread nature of the breaches, it is difficult to understand how they went unnoticed by the Ministry of Sport. Consideration has to be given to whether there was complicity by officers of the Ministry. For example, the entire payment of $34 million to EBeam Interact Limited was made notwithstanding that external attorneys advised that there may have been grounds to contest and resist the final payment.
1.3 It is recommended that the entire matter be turned over to the Director of Public Prosecution and the Commissioner of Police to prosecute the several breaches identified.
2.1 The Ministry of Sport designed the LIFE-Sport (LS) Programme to induce unemployed young men to get involved in sport, in order to redirect their lives into productive activities and positive engagements. Cabinet by Minute No. 2312 of August 30, 2011 agreed to the implementation of the LS Programme by the Ministry of Sport (MoS) through the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (hereinafter referred to as ‘SporTT’ or ‘the Sport Company’). This Programme which was launched on June 18, 2012, commenced August 6, 2012. It is currently being conducted in forty three (43) centres throughout Trinidad for young men between the ages 16-25.
2.2 The objective of this Programme is to reduce crime in Trinidad. The intention is to bring about social transformation in the lives of young men joining the Programme by strengthening their cognitive, personal and interpersonal abilities. It is expected that these young men will then be able to make informed decisions, manage their finances, communicate effectively and build healthy relationships.
3.1 Based on recent negative media reports about the LS Programme, the Central Audit Committee was mandated by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and the Economy on directive from the Minister of Finance and the Economy to conduct an operations audit of the LS Programme with emphasis on the payment system.
4.1 The Central Audit Committee, was established by Cabinet Minute 1266 dated September 2001 and is also empowered by same as well as by Section 4(2) of the Exchequer and Audit Act.
5.1 To conduct an audit of the operations of the LS Programme with emphasis on the payment system from its inception to the present.
6.1 The audit included but was not limited to the examination of all relevant books and records of the LS Programme from its inception to the present time.
7.1 Central Audit reviewed all available documents and records with respect to payments made from the inception of the programme. Most of the documents from February 2014 to present have not yet been seen even though numerous requests have been made. Further, to substantiate and reconcile the level of activities to the payments made, the following Centres were selected for review during the period June 11, 2014 to June 13, 2014:-
(i) June 11, 2014 – Marabella, Pleasantville (previously Embacadere), La Romain, Penal, Siparia, Santa Flora, Point Fortin and La Brea Centres;
(ii) June 12, 2014 – John John, St Paul Street, Beetham Gardens, Barataria, Malabar Train Line 1 and Malabar Train Line 2 Centres, Carapo and Valencia; and
(iii) June 13, 2014 – Carenage, Cocorite, Four Roads, Bagatelle, Covigne Road, River Estate, Enterprise and Tabaquite Centres.
7.2 Additionally, the Barataria, Maloney, Malabar, Pinto Road and La Horquetta Centres which were also visited prior to June 2014, were revisited on Wednesday June 18, 2014.
7.3 The following persons were interviewed:
(i) Mr Theodore Charles, Assistant Programme Director (Administration); also in attendance were Mr Ronnell Barclay, Project Manager, Mr Cyril Berkley and Junior Barrack from the Programme’s Placement Unit;
(ii) Mr Cornelius Price, Programme Director;
(iii) The Board of Directors of SporTT;
(iv) Mr. John Mollenthiel, Ex-CEO SporTT;
(v) Mr Anil Roberts, Honourable Minister of Sport;
(vi) Mr Ashwin Creed, Permanent Secretary, MoS;
(vii) Mr Adolphus Daniell, President / CEO of EBeam Interact Limited;
(viii) Several unsuccessful attempts were made to interview Ms Ruth Marchan the Deputy Programme Director; and (ix) In addition several relevant documents were presented to the Auditors by the Honourable Minister of National Security.
8.1 To ensure adequate controls, accountability and transparency exist in the LS programme and to ascertain whether expenses incurred were accurate and in accordance with the approved payment system.
9.0 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
9.1 Payment Process
Initial payments were paid in cash to participants. This meant that there could be little verification or control over the payments.
9.1.1 When the LS Programme officially started in August 2012 it was initially overseen by SporTT. This changed with effect from January 1, 2013 when full control of the programme was transferred to the MoS. SporTT however was retained to facilitate payment or as a “payment provider”.
9.1.2 Payments were made either by cheques or via the Automated Clearing House (ACH) System. Central Audit was informed that during a short period in 2012 cash payments were made to participants.
9.1.3 The decision to pay in cash was taken after it was discovered that numerous participants had no bank accounts and/or any form of identification to cash cheques. It was possible that major discrepancies could have occurred between those who should have been paid and those who were actually paid. The problem was subsequently resolved and Central Audit verified that participants have been receiving payments since October 2012 either via the ACH system or by separate cheques. However, Central Audit was not able to verify if the list of participants to be paid was consistent with the list of participants actually paid through the ACH system.
The Ministry of Sport increased the number of LS Centres without Cabinet’s approval. Several of these Centres could not be located.
9.2.1 Cabinet by Minute No. 2312 of August 30, 2011 agreed to the implementation of the LS Programme in thirty-three (33) centres throughout Trinidad by the Ministry of Sport (MoS) through the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT). Subsequently, ten (10) centres were added to the programme. Central audit was informed that of the ten (10) centres added, three (3) existing centres were downsized to thirty (30) participants each to accommodate three (3) additional centres, also with thirty (30) participants each. Of the other seven (7) centres, two (2) were introduced with sixty (60) participants each, and five (5), with thirty (30) participants each.
9.2.2 Central Audit was informed that the decision to start a LS Centre in a community was based on the recommendation of residents within the communities via their respective parliamentary representatives. However, no correspondence to this effect was seen.
9.2.3 It was discovered that some of the recently introduced centres do not have a fixed or proper place to operate. For example, Central Audit discovered that the Four Roads and Cocorite Community Centres, out of which the Four Roads and Cocorite LS Centres were supposed to be operating, have never been used.
9.2.4 Similarly, Central Audit was unable to locate Malabar Train Line 1 and 2, Beetham Gardens and Covigne Road LS centres when a visit was made to the listed addresses. It was also discovered that some of the older centres are still operating out of churches, pan-yards and savannahs.
The Coordinators seem to have criminal records which made them unsuitable as role models for the participants.
9.3.1 One (1) coordinator was contracted for each of the forty three (43) LS Centres with specific responsibilities for the operations of the LS Programme. Central Audit was informed that individuals in the communities who would have significant influence over the target group of young men were recommended by their respective communities. These individuals were subsequently contracted as coordinators. However from the list at Appendix 2 the contracts were given to contracting firms which was not envisaged when the programme was first conceptualised and approved by Cabinet.
9.3.2 During the field visits, personnel from the police service who provided protective escort to officers of the Central Audit Committee expressed concern about certain individuals who were contracted as coordinators for specific centres. These officers have alleged that a few such individuals in the East/West corridor are currently under police surveillance for illegal activities in their relevant areas.
9.3.3 The police officers were also very apprehensive whether such individuals can reform the participants under their watch when they themselves may still be involved in criminal behaviour. One of the officers strongly believed that the Cocorite, Four Roads and Covigne Road centres may have some sort of allegiance with the Carapo centre. Central Audit could not verify whether any such allegiance exists.