“He got off too easily!”
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Howai calls for tight control of Life Sport $$
Finance Minister Larry Howai is calling for tighter control and better supervision of the governing bodies in the wake of allegations of misspending under the multi-million dollar Life Sport Programme. In an email exchange with the Sunday Guardian yesterday, Howai also expressed concerns over allegations that taxpayers’ dollars was being funnelled out of the programme and used to finance criminals.
He said an audit was done of the programme following the discrepancies which were identified “and the findings of the report were forwarded to the minister and the sport company to ensure that the controls and supervision exercised by these bodies over the programme could be tightened and improved, and appropriate action taken where persons were guilty of any wrongdoing.” Howai said his ministry exercises great care and where irregularities show up, these are referred to the relevant ministry for immediate action.
“While the Ministry of Finance and the Economy does not, in general, do disbursements for the ministries, it tries as far as it possibly can to ensure that the money spent is of benefit not only to the individual participants in a programme but to the country as a whole.” Howai was responding to questions e-mailed to him about the programme, managed under the Sport Ministry, following allegations that a Carapo-based Muslim organisation was controlling the largest share of the $113 million programme.
Funding for the programme skyrocketed from $6 million in 2012 to $113 million in 2014. “As Minister of Finance and the Economy I assure you that I am concerned about these allegations,” was his response to concerns that the programme was potentially funding criminals. Howai explained that once a project or programme receives the approval of Cabinet, his ministry would disburse the funds to the relevant ministry.
“It is then the responsibility of that ministry to ensure that these funds are spent in accordance with the plan submitted to and approved by Cabinet.” Howai explained that monitoring 30 ministries and 75 state enterprises/statutory bodies, which was not the remit of his ministry, was not easy. “The Ministry of Finance and the Economy has in the past few months redoubled its oversight efforts of all ministries and in particular of this programme.”
Howai explained the $6 million to $113 million jump, stating that in 2012 the programme was in start-up mode, moving from the pilot phase to full implementation in 2014. “Participants, coordinators and venues were not in place and there would have been no expenditure in these areas. As the programme got off the ground attracting participants and requiring coordinators and venues, there was a commensurate increase in expenditure to where it is today,” he said.
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