Don’t disadvantage the poor and middle class.
That was the Opposition’s appeal to Government yesterday on the eve of today’s 2017 budget delivery.
Former national security minister Jack Warner spoke of large sums of money being spent for entertainment, video recordings and catering services under the former Life Sport programme for at-risk youths. Warner made the allegations while contributing to yesterday’s resumed private motion calling for the censure of Sport Minister Anil Roberts by the House of Representatives.
Earlier Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar told legislators in a ministerial statement that the programme was to be terminated and the report of the Finance and the Economy Ministry on the programme was to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Commissioner of Police, the Integrity Commission and the head of the Public Service for further investigations.
Warner walked with documents he said were provided by employees of the Ministry of Sport to highlight alleged indiscriminate spending under the programme. He said for 2014, to date $1.5 million was spent for official entertainment in the programme, adding that it was a 500 per cent increase over the corresponding period last year. He said he was willing to provide all the documentation to the DPP, the Integrity Commission and the CoP to assist in their investigations.
Warner joked that those who wanted to become millionaires should stop playing Lotto and play Life Sport instead.
Between January and July this year, he said, some $8.4 million was spent on video-taping. Warner said he was in possession of invoices to show that a company called Glenroy and Associates was paid $250,000 annually to supervise the programme. Warner also said a company owned by Dovaughn Cummings was paid $105,000 a month for portable toilets and hand sinks. He said that company was not registered. He said Going All Out Event Planners was paid $286,000 for video production over a three-month period.
Warner also said a company known as Dustbin Divers Maintenance “invoiced Life Sport $155,182.50 for reimbursement of transportation fees for one day.” He said that day was May 26, 2014. Warner said the trip was for participants to be transported to Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. “For one day,” he added.
At an earlier press conference, Warner, the chairman of the Independent Liberal Party, said he “felt to cry” while going through several documents which spoke of corruption and the funding of criminal elements in the Life Sport programme. Hinting that he also felt somewhat responsible, Warner said, “In many ways I put these guys in office but not to do this to the country.” He called for a full forensic audit and criminal investigation into the Life Sport programme, saying it should take no more than 30 days to complete.
The press briefing was held at the party’s office at Edward Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. He said there were many companies who were suddenly going from rags to riches and were making “overnight fortunes.” A policeman, he added, was also benefiting from the programme. Warner presented stacks of documents which he said represented only eight per cent of the files sent to him from personnel in the programme.
For the year ended September 2013, Warner said the total expenses for the programme were $150.5 million and for up to May 2014 the total expenses were $136.1 million. He said a football club in east Trinidad was given an increase in payment from $60,000 per month to $80,000 per month. “They are in a lower league than other teams that are being paid $50,000,” Warner added.
He said he made the statements before speaking in Parliament yesterday because he felt he would be silenced by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
On whether Sport Minister Anil Roberts should step down, Warner said he should have done so long ago if he had “any respect for the country.”