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Howai: Tight leash for Life Sport $$
Life Sport funding will be kept on a tight leash and there are firings ahead. That’s the word on the controversial Life Sport programme from Finance Minister Larry Howai and National Security Minister Gary Griffith. Both ministers spoke about the programme yesterday. Howai told the Senate that additional sums allocated Life Sport will not be disbursed by the Finance Ministry unless and until the ministry was assured of the legitimacy of the expenses that the funds were supposed to liquidate.
After the Senate, Griffith told reporters people involved in financial irregularities, “persons of interest” and those who were indisciplined would be removed from Life Sport after the audit of the programme being done by the Finance Ministry. Howai spoke about the Life Sport audit in the Senate while piloting legislation to supplement the 2014 budget with an additional $3.8 billion for expenditure. It includes allocation for the programme.
Howai’s ministry was mandated by the Prime Minister in May to do an audit of the programme after allegations of gang infiltration, corruption, various public concerns and information Griffith said he had on the situation. The PM also moved the programme from the Sport Ministry and placed it under Griffith’s National Security Ministry. Speaking in the Senate, Howai reiterated his statement that the audit of Life Sport would be completed within a fortnight.
He said the programme, when conceptualised, sought to teach life skills, through sport, to the less fortunate. Cabinet had approved the initiative and it began in 2012 with a budget of $6 million. “At that time the programme was in pilot phase, planning and start-up mode with participants, coaches and venues yet to be fully identified,” he added. Funding was subsequently increased to facilitate expansion from the initial three sites to 43, he added.
“In order to get the programme going a loan was arranged, which was partially repaid, and the funding to liquidate the remaining amount was included as part of the budget,” Howai said. Noting various allegations levelled at the programme and its administrative staff, he said the Sport Minister had spoken at length on those issues. Howai added: “As far as the ministry’s involvement goes, the Prime Minister has requested an audit of the programme and this is currently in train.
“I am fully cognizant of the concerns that are in the public domain regarding Life Sport. We share those concerns but we have to be sure we do not pre-judge or indeed prejudice the work of the auditors. “While I understand that time is of the essence, it is my intention, in the interest of accountability and transparency, that no stone be left unturned in the investigation of this programme.
“I have therefore asked that the audit of Life Sport be done with complete and utter thoroughness. I expect to receive the report from the auditors within the fortnight and then and only then can a way forward be determined.” He added: “Suffice it to say, however, that the additional sum allocated here for Life Sport is yet to be disbursed and will not be disbursed by my ministry unless and until the Ministry of Finance and the Economy is assured of the legitimacy of the expenses that the funds are supposed to liquidate.”
However, Independent Senator Helen Drayton said she had no confidence that a full audit report would be made public or anyone held accountable if evidence of wrongdoing were found.