Monday, December 18, 2017

$6.75m LifeSport contract to wife of PS

THE BENEFICIARY of the multi-million-dollar catering contract at the LifeSport programme is the wife of the Ministry of Sport’s permanent secretary, Opposition Senator Faris Al-Rawi said yesterday.

Daily lunches are provided to participants at the LifeSport programme at a cost of $75 each, Al-Rawi said.

Under the school feeding programme lunches are provided to pupils, from a menu including baked chicken, saffron rice and chunky vegetables, at a cost of $9 each, Al-Rawi said.

“She (the PS’ wife) could real cook,” Opposition Senator Shamfa Cudjoe said in response to the disparity in cost between the two lunches.

Al-Rawi made the statements during his contribution to the Finance (Supplementation and Variation of Appropriation) (Financial Year 2014) Bill, 2014 at the Upper House yesterday.

“I am advised that the catering contract amounting to $6.75 million...that the beneficiary of that contract, I am advised, is the wife of the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Sport,” Al-Rawi said.

“I am advised the PS for the Ministry of Sport is not in Trinidad because he is applying for US citizenship and he cannot leave the US right now,” he said.

Al-Rawi said taxpayers were paying $75 to provide a daily lunch to participants at the LifeSport programme.

Taxpayers pay $9 and $6.63 respectively for daily lunches and breakfast for the nation’s children through the school feeding programme.

“But it does not stop there Mr Vice-President...listen to the story about the recreational grounds and community centres,” Al-Rawi said.

“Local government entities, municipal corporations, regional corporations, city corporations are charged with the responsibility of the maintenance of green spaces, parks etc, that means they have to clean it, cut the grass, prune the trees, manage it...done for free by virtue of the subvention paid to them out of the consolidated fund,” he said.

“The Ministry of Sport however is in fact paying $200,000 to cut grounds that are managed and cut by the regional authorities, the municipal corporations. The Ministry of Sport, this LifeSport programme, I am advised to use the Prime Minister’s famous expression, they are now paying for the services while the grass is being cut by the regional corporations,” Al-Rawi said.

Al-Rawi said in his time as a senator he has never made such a “very serious allegation” and he is only doing so now because the employees at the Sport Ministry can verify the claims.

“I am making a very serious allegation today, that it is the people inside of the ministry that are certifying that lunches are being provided at $75, that grounds are being cut and that people are turning up and cutting the grass when it is not them and that community centres are being cleaned when the Ministry of Community Development actually does the cleaning and actually pays for it out of their subventions. Bills are coming from the Ministry of Sport in respect of catering, in respect of cleaning of community centres, and in respect of the cutting of grass, when no services are provided...on a fabricated bill on a fabricated invoice when the cheques are paid to the recipients who get them,” Al-Rawi said.

“Twenty per cent is kept by the person who cashes the cheque and 80 per cent is kept by the members involved in the racket,” he said.