If all had gone as Government planned in Parliament yesterday, UNC MP Ganga Singh’s quip to Finance Minister Colm Imbert might have been the only spotlight moment.
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Head of Public Service: Creed did not flee in fear
Head of the Public Service Reynold Cooper says he does not believe that the Sport Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Ashwin Creed was “fleeing for his life” when he sought emergency leave last month. Cooper said Creed later told him it was for family business. People’s National Movement leader Dr Keith Rowley, general secretary Ashton Ford and other PNMites have claimed Creed recently fled the country for fear of his life after receiving death threats. The PNM has also made claims about the ministry’s Life Sport programme. Creed has consistently refused to answer calls on the issue but yesterday Life Sport officials spoke about the project, including recent claims of “gang infiltration.”
Speaking to the T&T Guardian, Cooper, who is based at the Prime Minister’s Office, said Creed sought emergency leave from April 14 to 22. Cooper said Creed spoke to him on the phone and he did not get the impression Creed was “fleeing for his life,” though Creed gave no reason for seeking the emergency leave and protocol did not allow him to pry into reasons. He said the procedure was for a PS to liaise with his line minister first and Creed said he had indeed spoken to his minister, Anil Roberts, about the leave. Cooper said on his return Creed had told him his leave was due to “family business” and he had a daughter studying abroad. After Creed returned he later went to China from April 28 to 30 on official business to sign a memorandum of agreement on coaching and other assistance T&T was sourcing from China and took ordinary vacation leave from May 15 to 23, Cooper added.
On the audit of the Life Sport programme which the Prime Minister announced last Saturday, Cooper said that was completely in the Finance Ministry’s purview. He said a PS was the ministry’s accounting officer and any audit or probe of a PS’s work could be done by Finance or the Auditor General, whose report was tabled in Parliament. He said those bodies would copy to him any probe notification but there was no role for him in such an exercise, unless the Prime Minister asked him to investigate. Cooper also pointed out that according to Section 85(1) of the Constitution, the minister exercised control over the ministry, subject to such conditions and control as were under the PS’s supervision. He said while people may make suggestions, projects must get ministerial approval and in some cases Cabinet approval.
Life Sport —Anil’s brainchild
Recent reports have said the Life Sport programme was an initiative of Creed but a 2012 report on the launch of the programme described it as the “brainchild” of Sport Minister Roberts. Roberts, launching the programme on June 20, 2012, said he first developed the concept in 2007 while he campaigned for the Congress of the People in the Sea Lots area. Roberts at that time also said he had been inspired by the success of the sporting programmes in Cuba. According to the ministry’s description then, Life Sport’s classes, at 33 centres nationwide, aim, via sports and skills training, to transform the lives of young men ages 18-25 who live “at risk” of gang and other violence and criminal activity.
At a November 2013 function, climaxing the first year of Life Sport, Creed thanked the Ministries of Finance and Community Development for co-operation in providing the funding and accommodation (through community centres) for Life Sport during the first year of operation. A career public servant, Creed earned an executive masters degree in sport organisations management from the Faculty of Science and Sport, University of Poitiers, France. The T&T Olympic Committee nominated him for a scholarship.