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Anil’s seat now vacant

Speaker acts on resignation letter
Published: 
Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Former minister Anil Roberts’ former D’Abadie O’Meara seat, which was declared vacant yesterday, has been shifted to the outermost Parliament backbench, next to ILP’s Jack Warner, and behind Opposition MP Colm Imbert. The action on both fronts took place at yesterday’s opening of the fifth and last session of the tenth Parliament. Roberts, unlike former MPs Jack Warner and Herbert Volney, did not attend the session when his seat was declared vacant.

Roberts indicated his intention to resign from the seat when he resigned as Sport Minister last Thursday. The Prime Minister revoked his appointment following the Finance Ministry’s audit report on the Life Sport programme. The report noted startling irregularities which the PM referred to the Commissioner of Police, Integrity Commission, Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the Public Service for action. House Speaker Wade Mark said he received the resignation letter concerning the seat at 9.03 am yesterday. 

It was circulated to all MPs, the media and Parliament officials just after Mark declared Roberts’ seat vacant. However, Mark didn’t have the letter read out to the Parliament. Citing Section 49 (2) (a) Mark added: “In view of this I now declare the MP for D’Abadie O’Meara has vacated his seat in the House.” The D’Abadie O’Meara seat was formerly located behind the Government front bench, immediately behind the Prime Minister. Now vacant, it has been placed at the very end of the outermost backbench. 

It is behind PNM MPs, next to ILP’s Warner and at the extreme end, away from other backbencher MPs, such as former ministers Glenn Ramadharsingh, Chandresh Sharma and Collin Partap and ministers of state Stacy Roopnarine, Ramona Ramdial and Vernella Alleyne-Toppin. 

No by-election
When former PP MPs Jack Warner and Herbert Volney resigned from their respective Chaguanas West and St Joseph seats in 2013, each had attended the sitting where their respective resignations were announced then they had left the Parliament building. Warner and Volney’s resignations triggered by-elections in those seats last year. But that doesn’t apply in Roberts’ case since no by-election can be held after the fourth year of a term and general election is on the way.

On Roberts’ recent criticism about the People’s Partnership, United National Congress (UNC) public relations officer Rodney Charles said:
“We still commend him for taking the position that he still supports the PP Government and he thinks the Prime Minister is a much better alternative than Keith Rowley. It shows Anil has national interest at heart. “There were some problems in a ministry and the Prime Minister in her considered judgment and her usual deliberative style, assessed on facts and did what she felt was right. 

“Shifts of several people demonstrate decisive action, something the PNM never did throughout its issues but Anil is still part of the PP, one of us and we wish him well.” On fallout from termination of the Life Sport programme, especially where Roberts’ constituents are concerned, Charles added: “The Prime Minister has indicated the Government will seek alternative ways of addressing the situation and helping the youths whom Life Sport was intended to help. 

“PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley has therefore criticised the situation without presenting his own alternatives to address such situations, particularly in PNM-held seats. He should put up or shut up.”

Roberts’ letter 
Below is the full text of the letter Anil Roberts sent to Speaker of the House Wade Mark,  resigning as MP for the constituency of D’Abadie/O’Meara.

Speaker of the House of Representatives of,
The Republic of T&T,
The Honourable 
Wade Mark,

I hereby tender my resignation as MP for D’Abadie/O’Meara with immediate effect. It has indeed been a pleasure serving and representing the constituents of D’Abadie/O’Meara for the past four years and three months. As I leave you Mr Speaker I would just like to alert you to the fact that an incomplete, misleading, central audit report has been laid as a public document in your Honourable House. 

I shall give you but one glaring example, the Ministry of Finance and the Economy, Investments Division, Central Audit Committee delivered what was purported and presented as a complete and “final report” to the Government of T&T titled: “Final report on the operations audit of the Life Sport programme with emphasis on the payment system from its inception to present.”

Honourable Speaker this is not and cannot be the final report as you are well aware best practice internationally and domestically mandates that a draft report be supplied to the respective government departments for their final comment, queries and clarifications before producing a bonafide “final report”. This final necessary step dictated by the laws of natural justice, convention, process and fairness was completely omitted, leading to what can only be described as grave errors of fact. 

I shall not bore you today with the myriad of inaccuracies strewn throughout this draft report but I must highlight one critical area of misrepresentation with or without intent. I draw your attention to page four, the overview of conclusions, section 1.2, which states categorically as fact, “given the widespread nature of the breaches it is difficult to understand how they went unnoticed by the Ministry of Sport. 

Consideration has to be given to whether there was complicity by officers of the ministry. For example, the entire payment of $34 million to EBeam Interact Ltd was made notwithstanding that external attorneys advised that there may have been grounds to contest and resist the final payment.” 

Dear Honourable Speaker, this conclusion is totally false. To illustrate this I simply attach at appendix 1 the final legal advice to the SporTT company (not the Ministry of Sport, as it was in fact the SporTT company a separate legal entity with its own governance structures of board, CEO, signatories and decision makers who was in charge of the literacy and numeracy component of the Life Sport and not Ministry of Sport officials as erroneously stated in the conclusion of this purported “final report”. 

The advice from JD Sellier and company, dated Monday, February 17, 2014, from Anja R Dass and cc Dennis Gurley of external legal consultants JD Sellier and company clearly states the following and I quote:
“Reference is made to our telephone conference today between your Lisa Solomon, John Mollenthiel, our Dennis Gurley, the undersigned and your good self. “We write to confirm that we advised you that as previously set out in our letter, dated  January 17, 2014 SporTT is legally obligated under the contract to issue the remaining balance of $17 million to EBeam. 

“We suggested that ideally the parties should negotiate terms and conditions of works yet to be done before the payment is made. We further advised that the said payment should be negotiated to be paid in instalments based on works to be done. 

“However, given the lack of co-operation on the part of EBeam to meet and negotiate any new terms/condition/amended contract until said payment is made to him we advised that SporTT was left with no other option but to pay the contracted balance, given SporTT’s position under the contract.” Honourable Speaker, before Friday, July 25, 2014 this issue was a legal one, a civil one, one of a contractual nature which seemed to be heading to the civil courts for resolution. 

However, the laying of an incomplete, erroneous, Central Audit Committee report of the Ministry of Finance and the Economy in this Honourable House stating inter alia that “the entire payment of $34 million to EBeam Interact Ltd was made notwithstanding that external attorneys advised that there may be grounds to contest and resist the final payment.”

This false conclusion transformed a civil matter into a criminal one and the subsequent firestorm of unsubstantiated claims, allegations, counter-claims, unwarranted attacks, assumptions and assassination of my character throughout my beloved country has gone unabated, and Honourable Speaker today I beseech you to clarify the record of this Honourable House by stating the “true facts.”

I also include, Mr Speaker, written, internal, legal advice, dated November 11, 2013 from Ms Lisa Solomon, attorney at law, head legal, SporTT company to the CEO and by extension the board of the SporTT company on the same matter. 

Ms Solomon stated: “Based on the instructions which have been provided, there are no facts which can give rise to a legal termination of this contract. As discussed above, there is no evidence of a material breach of contract by EBeam nor is there any proof of insolvency or reputational risk. In light of the above, the legal position with regard to the contract is as follows:
“The contract between SporTT and EBeam having been duly executed is a binding legal document which imposes an obligation on SporTT to pay a fee of $34 million to EBeam for services provided;

There is no evidence to suggest that there has been a material breach of contract by EBeam which will give rise to a cause for termination for failure to perform the services;

EBeam has indicated in its report that it is ready and able to proceed to the next stage of the project;

Failure by SporTT to pay to EBeam the sum of $17 million representing 50 per cent of the fee contractually due and owing will in the circumstances discussed above, be a breach of contract and may result in legal action by EBeam to recover the contract price and any other reasonable consequential losses.

“Recommendation:
“Having regard to the above, the following is advised:
“1. That the most feasible option available to SporTT at this time would be to pay to EBeam the monies claimed by their invoice in accordance with the obligations set out in the contract between the parties dated December 6, 2012.” 

Honourable Speaker, a detailed examination of appendix 22 of the “final report” of the Central Audit Committee of the Ministry of Finance and the Economy which purports to be a true and complete copy of a legal opinion given by one Lisa Solomon, attorney at law, head legal at the SporTT company of T&T on November 11, 2013 is in fact a doctored, edited, incomplete version. 

Honourable Speaker, appendix two of my letter of resignation is the complete and true version of that legal advice. Shockingly you will notice that a key portion of this advice has been omitted by the Central Audit Committee of the Ministry of Finance and the Economy. Coincidentally it is this exact portion of the advice which goes directly against the inaccurate, false and now apparently fraudulent conclusions drawn by the Central Audit Committee on page 4 section 1.2 with regard to the EBeam interact contract. 

Furthermore, Honourable Speaker you will notice that the form and body of the original legal advice of which you now have a complete and true copy has been altered by the Central Audit Committee in appendix 22 to appendix 22-2. Someone has wilfully manipulated the text by placing part on the reverse side of the document and omitting key sections of the legal opinion. Clearly, someone with malicious intent doctored this legal advice and attached it to the so-called “final report”.

This, coupled with the aforementioned, complete absence of the true specifics and clear advice of external legal consultants from the firm of JD Sellier and company, Anja Dass and Dennis Gurley on February 17, 2014, which was the absolute final, legal advice on which the CEO and the board of the SporTT company acted upon, from the “final report” of the Central Audit Committee of the Ministry of Finance and the Economy, and the failure of the Central Audit Committee to return, as promised, to the governmental departments, in this case the Ministry of Sport, the SporTT company and the management of the Life Sport programme, for their final comments and clarifications as is the norm, seems to suggest complicity on the part of members of the audit committee to mislead the Parliament and the public at large. 

I shall do all in my power to clear my name which has been sullied by political mischief-makers with the assistance of a complicit Central Audit Committee. One is left wondering how a fraudulent report like this Central Audit Committee report makes its way into our Parliament, and subsequently into the public domain. May God bless you and may God bless our beloved country.

Honourable Speaker, as I resign as a Member of Parliament for D’Abadie/O’Meara today, I wish to go in peace with my good name intact, Honourable Speaker I beseech you to sanitise the record and place the truth at the forefront. This has gone beyond the realm of mischievous politics and has descended into the abyss of nefarious character-assassination by those with hidden political agendas. To my constituents of D’Abadie/O’Meara, I thank you for the honour of having served you and I wish you God speed. 

Yours respectfully,
Anil OE Roberts
MP D’Abadie/O’Meara.