Monday, February 19, 2018

$$ still missing from Sport Ministry

Close to $3.5 million remains unaccounted for in Ministry of Sport.

Sources told the Express Cabinet had approved $4,994,000 for the fiscal year October 2012-2013 to the T&T Boxing Board of Control (TTBBC).

The monies, the Express understands, were to be given to the board by the ministry to liquidate debts. The debts included paying off the salaries of over 24 coaches and other expenses.

The Express also understands Deputy Director of Physical Education and Sport Ruth Marchan and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport Ashwin Creed had met with several coaches, the TTBBC, special adviser to the boxing board Buxo Potts and staff, informing them they will be paid their outstanding wages.

Several efforts to contact Marchan yesterday afternoon were unsuccessful and messages left were not returned.

To date, more than 30 coaches are yet to be paid.

In a letter dated April 23, 2014, designated officer (Freedom of Information Act) for the Ministry of Sport Judith Joseph, in response to concerns raised by Potts, noted the sum in question “falls under the Non-Profit Institutions Vote and was allocated in block as part of a lump sum which included the TTBBC”.

Joseph noted records produced showed a total expenditure as at September 2013 of $1,572,196.83 being spent.

Checks by the Express showed $3,421,803.17, being unaccounted for although the funds were released to the ministry.

According to documents received by the Express, Potts, in a March 24, 2014, letter, wrote under the Freedom of Information Act requesting a breakdown of the monies received and spent by the Sport Ministry regarding the TTBBC.

In his letter, Potts raised various concerns regarding the conduct of a senior ministry official and the lack of proper accounting mechanisms in place at the minist­ry.

Joseph, in her response, said: “All applications for releases must be submitted on behalf of the TTBC by its authorised officials only. In this context, it is to be noted from the onset that there was no board in operation for the period November 2010-June 2013. Further, not because money is allocated to an entity/agency that the entire sum must be drawn down, an in any event it must follow proper procedures and processes.”

She added the appropriation accounts were submitted to the Comptroller of Accounts and the Auditor General to be audited for fiscal year 2012-2013 “and no irregularities/issues were raised or detected on the part of the Ministry of Sport and the Permanent Secretary with respect to monies expended under the TTBC”.

But, on April 29, Potts wrote Auditor General Sharman Ottley, asking that the official be made to account in detail for “what was done with the balance of $3,421,803.17”.

Potts wrote that the official was asked to account for the entire budget and “to my great dissatisfaction he skirted and hedges his response. In my humble view he gave a partial or incorrect response while name dropping and using the name of your good office and also the office of the comptroller of accounts saying you all were satisfied with the financial performance of the Ministry of Sport”.

Copies of the letter were also sent to President Anthony Carmona, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, Head Permanent Secretary Reynold Cooper, Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, Integrity Commission Registrar Martin Farrell and Comptroller of Accounts Roland Shepherd.

Several attempts by the Express to contact the official were unsuccessful.

The Express also contacted Potts yesterday, seeking a response from him on the letters written and claims highlighted, but he refused to comment. “I have no comment at this time,” Potts said.

Efforts to contact Sport Minister Anil Roberts were also unsuccessful.

On April 29, 2013, Auditor General Sharman Ottley submitted a report to Speaker of the House Wade Mark.

The contents of the report showed that in seven ministries, there were increases in expenditure by more than 50 per cent from 2011 to 2012.

In the Ministry of Sport, expenditure moved from $28.786 million in 2011 to $395.884 million in 2012—an increase of $367.098 million or 1,275 per cent.

Ottley noted the examination of records and documents showed that in many instances there was non-compliance with financial instructions, financial regulations and other financial directives, while reports on appropriation accounts were not received from 13 accounting officers by the Auditor’s General Office up to January 31, 2013.

—Denyse Renne