Last week’s column focused on stagnation in the tourism sector and the weak marketing of T&T.
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Price condemns ‘sloppy’ Life Sport audit
Life Sport programme director Cornelius Price has condemned the manner in which the auditors undertook their investigations into the controversial programme. Price yesterday said they failed to do their job thoroughly. The audit was done by the Ministry of Finance’s Central Audit Unit (CAU). In the 53-page audit, Price’s name came up several times, mainly for the criteria he used in selecting companies and the exorbitant prices paid to suppliers.
The report stated that Price was unable to provide adequate answers to the issues raised. Yesterday, a fuming Price said he did nothing wrong and was not to blame for the Life Sport fiasco. He said the auditors did not carry out the audit properly, which put Life Sport in a bad light. “The auditors, in my view, never checked certain things. I find the audit did not pay much attention to checking files.
You compiled files for them and they never checked it.” He said the auditors did not look at certain files, which he found strange. “Some of the procurement processes were outlined in the files.” Price said Life Sport was asked by the auditors for certain documents, which were supplied to them but “I don’t think they read it.”
Computers accounted for
In one instance, Price said, the auditors refused to see certain files. Price said last Friday, a package was sent to the CAU for their perusal, but he later found out that it was too late since the report was being finalised. “They say they did not get certain documents. Well, all right.” Price said he had written statements from co-ordinators who stated that the auditors queried the location of certain “boys” at certain centres, and upon receiving the information, never checked.
Price said he was interviewed by the auditors twice. Price said the auditors highlighted in the report that 200 laptop computers which cost Life Sport $998,500 were not physically located at the centres visited. However, the auditors stated that enquiries from Theodore Charles, assistant programme director, revealed that only 70 laptops were accounted for. Price said as far as he knows “all the laptops are accounted for. I don’t know what the auditors looked for. They did not check nothing. That was a pattern. They start off badly.”
‘I never encouraged anything’
He said normally the auditors would visit the ministry and talk to the permanent secretary and they would compile files and hand over documents. “In this instance, the auditors went straight to the Sport Company for information.” Price also took issue with the report, which recommended that the relevant unit of the Ministry of National Security conduct an investigation on the programme’s 43 coordinators.
“You cannot make a blanket statement. You are saying that all of them are criminals. That is madness.” He felt that the auditors could have observed all the centres and co-ordinators over a period of time, than draw their own conclusions. Tomorrow, Price said, he would hold a press conference at the Ministry of Sport to clear the air on matters that fell under his portfolio. In March, Price was appointed the programme’s director. “I wasn’t involved in certain things directly.
I could only deal with matters relating to me. When I came in I tried to put things in place. As a manager you have to make decisions on the spot. I never encouraged anything. Let the auditors go and deal with their foolishness that I encouraged things. That is foolishness.” He said any invoices that came to him would have been verified. “There are one or two things that may have slipped through. When I came into the system I saw an arrangement...that is something I was accustomed seeing.
So when I became director there was no reason to stop those payments because I saw them coming in all the time. However, there were several other payments that were stopped about two or three months ago for different areas because I became suspicious. When I checked there was nothing. I was being harassed about it.”
Missing files Price said the bills had to do with the rental of tents at Bagatelle, Barataria, Carapo, Sangre Grande and Valencia. He admitted that files had gone missing from Life Sport. “There are a lot of files that go missing sometimes. You cannot find it.” Price said the only bills he did not sign for were those for janitorial services, “until recently” when his signature was required. Those bills were previously signed off by the project unit for matters in that area.
Asked if he was scared that the PM had sent the report to the Director of Public Prosecutions and Commissioner of Police, Price said, “There is nothing to be scared about. I have not done anything wrong.” Is the audit an indictment of him? Price said, “I don’t know about any indictment of me. If you look at the report you would see things as far back as 2013.
What happened before (my time) is not my business.” The burying of Life Sport, Price said, was not the end of the world. “It finish, it finish. I wasn’t born in Life Sport. It was a good programme but it had issues.” Price said even though the programme had been scrapped, he would not be out of a job since he had other things to fall back on.