Sport Minister Anil Roberts says that he did not “personally” escort Adolphus Daniell, the educator who was paid $34 million from the LifeSport programme for no work, to meet Finance Minister Larry Howai but was part of a team.
While Minister Roberts has declined to speak with the Express to clarify his position, he did so in an interview with CNC3’s The Morning Brew programme yesterday.
Roberts said the Ministry of Finance wanted clarification on the programme and a meeting was arranged.
On Monday, Finance Minister Larry Howai says it was Roberts who brought Daniell to his ministry.
“Mr Daniell was brought by Minister Roberts and officers of the Ministry of Sport to meet with the Ministry of Finance to demonstrate how the programme would work. After the demonstration, nothing further was heard about this initiative as far as I am aware,” Howai had said in an e-mail response to questions from the Express.
Howai’s comments were in relation to questions on why Daniell was solely selected for the project and whether Daniell’s $34 million contract was sent to Cabinet for approval, given the quantum of it.
Roberts yesterday sought to distance himself from the contract, saying the minister was not involved in policy.
“I have no control over who signs cheques, who pays what, who gives out contracts, who are chosen as suppliers, who are employed...a minister does not have that, so please people understand the roles we have and understand the flip-side to that question is if a minister gets involved and goes to a board meeting and says hire this one, give this contract, then they will be considered corrupt,” he said.
“I take full responsibility for those 2,097 young men who are now without hope, without a programme. They trusted in the LifeSport programme. These are young men who don’t trust easily...they’ve not been treated well throughout their lives from the time of conception straight up to being 16. I don’t think the programme was a failure, I think human beings who were given the responsibility to manage the programme have failed. Those suppliers who over-invoiced have failed, those who did not pay their VAT have failed, those who didn’t follow procurement. As I say this is the audit report, the ministry can respond and then of course the DPP, FIU, Integrity Commission will deal with that. Those who have done wrong, there are systems to pay for it. So I accept, of course, I accept responsibility. Do you want me to resign and stop helping people when I had no authority over managerial things?” he asked.
Roberts also said that in his view, the audit was not final.
“The ministry officials, the permanent secretary, the Sport Company, the LifeSport contractor, the directors and so on are given an opportunity to respond to any queries or any statements made here...so this is not the final thing. They would do that this week and so on but when you look in here, something that bothered me terribly was that laptops were bought for poor people, poor children, I call them children, some people call them criminals...well, whatever you want to call them, who were making the wrong choices, who were on the street, who were robbing, who were involved in crime, this programme is to take them out, try and get them in. The coordinators are not supposed to be mentors, they are supposed to be able to get these fellas off the streets,” he said.
Roberts maintained that because the report had not linked him directly to corruption, there was no reason for him to resign.
He believes that while the participants of the programme may be disappointed at this point: “I just appeal to them to stay calm, the Prime Minister will find another avenue.”