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New info in Life Sport probe requires further investigation
The audit into the controversial spending at the multimillion-dollar Life Sport programme has uncovered information that requires further investigation. The already protracted audit was expected to be completed at the end of last week, but officials at the Ministry of Finance have said that they would need another week. This is the third such extension to the investigation since Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar ordered the audit at the fourth anniversary rally of the People’s Partnership, at Mid Centre Mall, Chaguanas, on May 24.
The Sunday Guardian e-mailed requests for an update on the progress of the audit to Finance Minister Larry Howai on Thursday and received a response from Cheryl Lala, Howai’s strategic communications adviser on Friday. “New information requiring further investigation is still coming to light. While we were expecting to complete this week, new information coming to light means that the audit is expected to take at least another week to complete,” she said.
Lala said officials from the Ministry of Finance have already met with Minister of National Security Gary Griffith and also with Minister of Sport Anil Roberts regarding Life Sport. Official letters have “already been dispatched” to both the Sport Ministry’s permanent secretary Ashwin Creed and deputy director Ruth Marchan. Just last week, in an interview with the Sunday Guardian, Creed said he had accumulated and was taking some 250 days leave and then planned to proceed on pre-retirement leave.
He said he was willing to assist with the on-going audit. Marchan allegedly foiled a murder plot against her by two senior sporting officials and has since been hiding out in a safe house provided by former national security minister Jack Warner. However, Lala said the audit could, if necessary, be completed without interviews of or input by both Creed and Marchan. “Of course, this would not be the ideal scenario but it is possible to audit the programme without their direct input,” she said.
“Should this prove to be the case, the auditors would substantiate their findings and conclusions from the documentation and from discussions with other officers and from alternative secondary sources such as discussions with residents, security services, religious officials who may have certain information, invoices that would support the fact that orders were placed, etc., that would corroborate what the officers of the ministry have identified in the audit,” Lala noted.
With the audit entering its second month, Lala said the “auditors have been charged with visiting several locations and verifying thousands of documents and claims.” She said, “The nature of the programme and the seriousness of the allegations in the public domain” necessitate that the auditors be particularly thorough.