“Call me RamKING Sharma,” Omardath Maraj, a joint winner of this year’s Chutney Soca Monarch, jokingly said as our interview was about to begin.
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PS’s lawyer heads to court with Life Sport
Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Sport Ashwin Creed has been made the “scapegoat” in the Life Sport scandal by the Central Audit Unit, says his attorney Peter Taylor. Taylor says there is now enough evidence to seek a judicial review of the report, which Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar laid in Parliament on July 24. Taylor spoke with the media yesterday at his chambers on Borde Street, Port-of-Spain, and dismissed the CAU report, describing it as “erroneous and misleading.”
“It is clear to me that not only is the report seriously flawed, it is biased and it is riddled with procedural irregularities,” Taylor said. He said Creed’s interview with the CAU and the information that he divulged to them was deliberately left out of the “flawed audit.” “It was deliberately unfavourable,” he said. “In light of that, I have advised my client that there is a prima facia case to have this matter filed in the court for judicial review.”
Taylor said the report was “cherry picked” and relevant documents were deliberately left out in order to point fingers at his client. “The procedure is that when the auditors finish their report, they would come back to the ministry and say, ‘This is what we going with, check it and see if there are any corrections, any inaccuracies.’ “They did not do that, you know. They went straight to the Parliament, straight to the Prime Minister with it. If they had done that then maybe the inadvertent omissions would have been picked up,” Taylor said.
“The admission by the Honourable Minister of Finance that there were omissions is a cause for concern in the country, because this report was used to indict decent people. “That is not to say the programme does not have problems, of course it has problems,” he added.
Creed, he said, also put together a comprehensive response to the CAU before the report was finalised last month. The response was also sent to all relevant parties, including Persad-Bissessar and Finance Minister Larry Howai. “In this document, you have a series of documents that were either not examined by the Central Auditors, or they chose to omit it,” he said.
One such document included details of Creed’s establishment of an academic component committee, which was supposed to track and provide oversight on the numeracy and literacy portion of the Life Sport programme and would have examined the implementation of the $34 million eBeam Interact Ltd contract.
“They seem to want to make a scapegoat out of PS Creed that he did not do what he was supposed to do, he did not exercise his fiduciary oversight duty. I am saying that that is not so and I have the documents to substantiate that,” Taylor said. Taylor said the direct responsibility for the contentious eBeam Interact contract lay with the Sport Company of T&T (SporTT) and not his client. “It was those who drafted it that chose to omit certain clauses, that chose to draft it in a loose way,” he said.
Pressed by the media to explain whether Creed was either unaware of his role to protect the public purse or complicit with the board’s decisions, Taylor said he could not answer that, as he would have to direct those questions to his client. Taylor’s legal argument on Creed’s behalf is that the vague contracts which allowed the multi-million-dollar payment to eBeam was not his client’s doing. “It was drafted by the Sport Company’s legal team. Sport Company is a special-purpose company,” he said.
On Thursday, Cabinet took the decision to dismiss the entire Sport Company board.