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Rowley: Life Sport cheques thrown away in Beetham Dump

By JULIEN NEAVES Tuesday, August 5 2014

click on pic to zoom in
LOOK WHAT I GOT:Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley displays the stubs of Life Sport cheques during a press conference yesterday at the Parliament which...
LOOK WHAT I GOT:Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley displays the stubs of Life Sport cheques during a press conference yesterday at the Parliament which...

OPPOSITION Leader Dr Keith Rowley claims that people at the Ministry of Sport and elsewhere have been destroying evidence following the Life Sport audit and garbage bags of cheque stubs from the programme have been thrown into the Beetham Dump.

He said the Opposition has received an envelope from one of these bags with cheque stubs for stipends for people in Malabar, Morvant, Tabaquite, Siparia, Bagatelle, Barataria and La Romaine, which was an indication of the “ghosting” in the programme.

“Who is the person who has all these cheque stubs and where are the cheques?” he asked rhetorically.

He also pointed out that the cheque stubs are in a sequence and though originally dated for June 2015 it had been changed to 2014 and initialled. He said the Life Sport issue did not end with the ministry but the “cancer” had spread to the banks as there had to be persons in the banks encashing these cheques. He reported that the cheques will be sent to the Commissioner of Police and the Fraud Squad.

He was speaking yesterday at a media conference held at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port-of-Spain. Speaking later with Newsday via telephone Rowley explained that a garbage collector on a garbage truck saw a burst garbage bag, retrieved one of a number of envelopes, found the cheque stubs inside and passed it on the Opposition. The bag and others were on its way to the dump. Rowley said that someone was dumping batches of cheque stubs and questioned why one person would have all these cheque stubs together. He also pointed out that the change in dates may have been due to the National Security Minister Gary Griffith’s announcement that they were stopping all payments on the programme.

The Life Sport programme was terminated following the findings of a Finance Ministry Audit which unearthed several financial irregularities and breaches of procedure. Assistant Commissioner of Police Carlton Alleyne has been mandated to probe the programme.

At the media conference Rowley said in 2011 the Opposition began hearing about wrongdoing in the Ministry of Sport and in Freedom of Information Act request dated July 18, 2011 requested a list of all organisations, clubs, individuals or any other entity who received funding from the ministry and/or its related agencies between the period June 1, 2010 to July 15, 2011 excluding national organisations. The total amount paid to each entity was also requested.

He said the matter received no acknowledgment and this was also the case for a FOI to Ministry of Food Production on flood relief, the Housing Ministry on CEPEP, Caribbean Airlines and the Education Ministry.

He explained that the Opposition was pursuing information that the Sport Ministry had authorised significant payments to Malabar Football Club (FC). He reported that at the end of June 2010 approvals had been granted for Malabar FC to receive $59,000 to pay the chairman, other staff members and a monthly stipend to players. He also pointed out that the letter requesting financial assistance was dated September 1, 2010, two months later than the approval granted on June 26, 2010 by “the same former minister who claims ministers have no responsibility”.

Rowley said this disbursement was used by Roberts to “feather his nest” in his constituency of D’Abadie/O’Meara while a request he (Rowley) had placed for $40,000 for the Diego Martin Football League was never acknowledged. He questioned how much money was paid to this football club and why taxpayers had to pay for staff and players.

He said the information on Life Sport was “far worse” than what they expected it to be.

The Opposition is calling for forensic investigations into a number of Sport Ministry programmes: Rural Sport; Twilight Games; Relay Carnival; Arima Invitational; Hoop of Life; and Malabar FC.

Rowley said the Opposition has been informed that what was unearthed in Life Sport is the “nature of business in the Ministry of Sport” and some people saw the ministry as a trough from which huge sums of money could be paid and at times through corrupt and fraudulent means.

He stressed that public monies have to be accounted for and called for the Auditor General and the Commissioner of Police to investigate these issues.

He said the Prime Minister would have known what was occurring at the Sport Ministry and described the Finance Ministry audit she requested as “restrictive”, and not forensic but specific. “What they figure they could survive on,” he commented.

He said the audit focused on the method of payment but did not follow the money or the recipients.

He also noted that the Prime Minister did nothing with the minister in charge, Roberts, but left him in charge with a “huge scandal and his career ending in front of him and lots of people exposed to serious allegations of criminal conduct, making no effort to secure the evidence of their wrongdoing”.

Rowley said there were also issues and “scandals” at the East Port-of-Spain Development Company and in the Ministry of Works.

“If you think Life Sport is the end of it, is just a window into the nature of governance in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.

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