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I’LL CLEAR MY NAME

By Clint Chan Tack Tuesday, August 5 2014

click on pic to zoom in

FORMER Sports Minister and D’Abadie/O’Meara MP Anil Roberts yesterday vowed to do all in his power to clear his name in the wake of the Life Sport controversy that cost him his Cabinet post and his seat in the House of Representatives.

Roberts made this promise in a letter to Speaker Wade Mark, in which he announced his resignation as D’Abadie/O’Meara MP.

Charging he has been targeted for character assassination and reiterating his claim that the Life Sport audit conducted by the Finance Ministry’s central audit committee was flawed, Roberts declared, “I shall do all in my power to clear my name which has been sullied by political mischief-makers with the assistance of a complicit central audit committee.”

He added, “One is left wondering how a fraudulent report like this central audit committee report makes its way into our Parliament, and subsequently into our public domain.” Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar laid the audit in the House on July 25.

When she did so, Persad-Bissessar said copies would be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the acting Commissioner of Police (CoP), Integrity Commission and the Head of the Public Service for further investigation. Roberts told Newsday that at about 3 pm yesterday, copies of his resignation letter and attached correspondence to support his claims were sent to the DPP, CoP and the Commission. He also said the SPORTT Company and the Sport Ministry “will also send to the Ministry of Finance, DPP et cetera, full detailed responses to falsehoods in the audit report.”

At the start of yesterday’s sitting of the House of Representatives, the first for the Fifth Session of the Tenth Parliament at the Port-of-Spain International Waterfront Centre, Mark advised MPs, “Today at approximately 9.03 am, I received a letter from Mr Anil Roberts tendering his resignation as the Member of Parliament for the constituency of D’Abadie/O’Meara with immediate effect.”

Quoting Section 49 (2) (a) of the Constitution, Mark said, “A member of the House of Representatives shall also vacate his seat in the House where he resigns it by writing under his hand addressed to the Speaker or, where the Speaker is vacant or the Speaker is absent from Trinidad and Tobago, to the Deputy Speaker.”

Roberts signalled his intent to resign as minister and MP in a letter to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last Thursday. Mark indicated, “In view of the foregoing, I declare that the Member for D’Abadie/O’Meara has vacated this seat in the House.” However Mark did not read the contents of Roberts’ letter into the Hansard record.

Roberts subsequently contacted Newsday and asked, “Why did he not read my letter into the Hansard?” Indicating copies of his letter would be available to the media in Parliament, Roberts said, “Read it. You will see why.”

In his letter, Roberts advised Mark of his resignation as MP with immediate effect and thanked his constituents for the opportunity to serve them. “Today I wish to go in peace with my good name intact,” he wrote.

Appealing to Mark to “sanitise the record and place the truth at the forefront,” Roberts charged, “This has gone far beyond the realm of mischievous politics and descended into the abyss of nefarious character assassination by those with hidden political agendas.”

Roberts told Mark he wanted to alert him “to the fact that an incomplete, misleading central audit report has been laid as a public document in your honourable house.”

He said while the Finance Ministry’s central audit committee delivered what it entitled as a “final report” into Life Sport to the Government, “this is not and cannot be the final report.” Roberts told Mark, “As you are well aware, best practice internationally and domestically mandates that a draft report be supplied to the respective government departments for their final comment, queries and clarifications before producing a bonafide ‘FINAL REPORT’.”

He claimed this final step, dictated by the laws of natural justice, convention, process and fairness, “was completely omitted, leading to what can only be described as grave errors of fact.”

Highlighting the payment of $34 million to EBeam Interact Limited as one example of the audit being flawed, Roberts told Mark, “ Before July 25, 2014, this issue was a legal one, a civil one, one of a contractual nature which seemed headed to the civil courts for resolution.”

However Roberts claimed “the laying of an incomplete, erroneous central audit committee report” from the Finance Ministry in the House has presented a false conclusion that payment was made to EBeam notwithstanding that external attorneys advised that there were grounds to contest and resist the final payment.

“This false conclusion transformed a civil matter into a criminal one and the subsequent fire storm of unsubstantiated claims, allegations, counter claims, unwarranted attacks, assumptions and assassination of my character throughout my beloved country has gone unabated,” he said.

Stating he had received internal legal advice dated November 11, 2013 from attorney Lisa Solomon, head legal at the SPORTT company, Roberts said that advice indicated there were no facts to support the legal termination of the EBeam contract.

He said Solomon’s advice added that SPORTT’s failure to pay the outstanding sum of $17 million to EBeam would mean it was in breach of the contract and EBeam would be entitled to take legal action against SPORTT “to recover the contract price and any other reasonable consequential losses.

Saying that “the complete and true version” of Solomon’s legal advice is attached to appendix 2 of his resignation letter, Roberts said a detailed examination of appendix 22 of the “final report” of the central audit committee will show that “a key portion of this advice has been omitted” by the committee. He alleged that what is contained in the report “is in fact a doctored, edited, incomplete version” of that advice.

Roberts told Mark, “Shockingly, you will notice that a key portion of this advice” has been omitted by the committee.” He said this “is the exact portion of the advice which goes directly against the inaccurate, false and now apparently fraudulent conclusions” drawn by the committee on page 4, section 1.2 with respect to the EBeam interact contract.

Section 1.2 reads, “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.”

Telling Mark he has provided him with the “true and complete copy” of the original legal advice, Roberts claimed this was altered by the committee in appendix 22 to appendix 22.2 of the audit.

“Someone has wilfully manipulated the text by placing part on the reverse side of the document and omitting key sections of the legal opinion,” he claimed. He added Solomon’s advice is supported by legal advice from the legal from the firm of JD Sellier and Company in a letter dated February 17, 2014, which was part of the bundle of documents that accompanied his resignation letter to Mark. Efforts to contact Finance Minister Larry Howai to respond to Roberts’ claims were unsuccessful. (See Page 14A)

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