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Howai on Life Sport audit: Probers need more time
Decisions will be made on the basis of the Finance Ministry’s audit of the Life Sport programme, expected to be completed in another three weeks or so, Finance Minister Larry Howai confirmed yesterday. Howai said the ministry was interviewing both sides, the National Security Ministry as well as Life Sport officials, on the issue. He added that the Finance Ministry had to do so “because (National Security) Minister Gary Griffith has said, ‘this is the situation’ and we said ‘okay, if that is so, obviously you made a statement on the basis of information, so let us know what information you have.’So we’re also interviewing the National Security and so.”
Howai spoke about the issue during the Senate’s lunch break yesterday. He said he had seen a headline on the issue but had not received any report and the audit officers had not given him any interim or final report yet. Howai added: “They indicated they needed some additional time as it is 41 centres they have to visit to confirm things and they have to confirm with everyone, also the nature of the confirmation tends to be a little difficult. “For example, someone may have signed a receipt but whether the money went to all the parties it’s supposed to, that is the piece that is requiring a little more work than they had originally expected to do. As of now, I don’t have any further update other than the fact the work continues.”
Howai said when the audit started, he had thought it would be done within three to four weeks and they should have finished. But based on what he was seeing now, Howai said they would probably need another three weeks before they get everything completed. Howai said he only had about four officers working on the audit and they had to interview everyone, visit all centres and get corroboration from those 41 centres. “So it’s taking a bit longer... they have to be accurate, as decisions will be made on the basis of whatever they put together and they don’t want to make a decision and say, ‘we made a mistake.’ They have to be sure they get the information,” he said. He added that the audit team was dealing first with some of the people who were more difficult to locate.“So while we could get hold of them, we will,” he said.
Safety concerns raised
Howai also said the Finance Ministry had to use some National Security Ministry staff to assist with visits, since some finance officers expressed concern about their physical safety in some areas. Arrangements were made for them to have security that might be required in visiting some centres. Deputy director of physical education and sports in the Sport Ministry, Ruth Marchan, Life Sport programme director Cornelius Price and another official have claimed to have received death threats in connection with the programme. Marchan and Price are now said to be under police guard for their safety.
On whether Life Sport was functional, Howai said it wasn’t really, due to the interviews being done. On if it was suspended as a recent report claimed, Howai said the programme had been transferred to Griffith’s ministry. He said the transfer was approved and confirmed by Cabinet note, adding Griffith was “on top of it fully now.” Howai said he had also asked Griffith to consider what areas should be cut out or significantly reduced in some way. He said there were obviously some areas where things were working well and also others where perhaps it may not be.
“I asked if he could pay particular attention to those and see if we could cut those down because I don’t want the ministry to be in a position to continue to make payments for something that shouldn’t really be paid for. “I did ask that he deal with those specific areas as soon as it came over to him,” Howai said. On Creed’s absences from the Sport Ministry, Howai said the minister would have made a request to the head of the public service for a replacement to handle revenue issues at the Sport Ministry.