Friday, February 23, 2018

SporTT board must go now

Express editorial logo464

Mark Fraser

Now that he has completed the task of welcoming home the team of athletes who represented this country with distinction at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, the next priority of acting Sport Minister Dr Rupert Griffith must be to fire the board of the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT).

As the line minister for this disgraced special-purpose company, Dr Griffith should recognise that the Ministry of Sport must take action against the SporTT board for its role in the LifeSport scandal.

The revelations surrounding LifeSport, both in the media and in the report of the Finance Ministry’s Central Audit Committee, have seriously shaken public confidence in both the Ministry of Sport and SporTT. The forced resignation of Anil Roberts as Minis­ter of Sport is just part of what is needed for restoring public confidence. Holding the directors and management of SporTT accountable is another.

The country’s large network of sporting associations and organisations, comprised mainly of young, talented and disciplined athletes, should not be made to bear the brunt of any continued dysfunction at either the ministry or SporTT.

Minister Griffith would be spared having to act if the directors at SporTT would do the honourable thing and resign now. The fact that they have not yet done so is boldfaced in the extreme.

After the catastrophe of the LifeSport programme, in which SporTT was fingered for facilitating major waste of taxpayers’ money, including the shameful payment of $34 million to Adolphus Daniell’s EBeam Interact, this board should be in no doubt that it no longer enjoys the confidence of the public. It must go, and it should do so now.

This newspaper also notes the silence of the usually talkative Attorney General Anand Ramlogan. As a special-purpose com­pany, SporTT falls under the Companies Act, which holds directors personally liable for defined actions and defaults. We would suggest that this matter is highly deserving of the AG’s focused attention. Given the very extensive and expensive legal resources he has been able to deploy at whim over his four years in office, we see no reason why he would hesitate to train his investigative lens on this matter. The public also expects the DPP’s office will receive the cooperation of the Ministry of Sport, the Ministry of Finance and other relevant State agencies in its efforts to bring wrong-doers to book in this matter.

The role of SporTT in the LifeSport scandal again brings into the spotlight the dangers posed by State-owned special-purpose companies which operate outside of the accountability framework of the Central Tenders Board. Introduced as a solution to delays caused by heavy State bureaucracy, special-purpose companies are becoming notorious for questionable financial decision-­making outside of a framework for accountability.

The time has come to review their operations with a view to making them fully accountable or dismantling them altogether. A signal in the right direction would be the immediate dismissal of the Sport Company’s board.