The Ministry of Sport has reconsidered an earlier decision not to fund the senior national football team's participation in the 2012 Caribbean Cup football championships.
Trinidad and Tobago open the tournament against French Guiana next Wednesday. They are also due to meet Anguilla on October 12, before ending first-round qualifying against host St Kitts-Nevis on October 14.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, MP for D'Abadie/O'Meara, Anil Roberts, announced that Trinidad and Tobago will play in St Kitts-Nevis. Initially, the Ministry of Sport had blanked a request by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) for $423,218 in funding to cover air fares and allowances for the senior national football team, citing "the abysmal performance of the senior team".
Roberts however shifted the blame yesterday to faulty accounting, and also made accusations against sport administrator Tony Harford, the chairman of an independent Authorisation Committee approved last year by Roberts to oversee football funds given to the TTFF.
Roberts also described as "a lovely fairy tale" an accusation that he was a pawn of former TTFF special adviser and National Security Minister Jack Warner, and was under instruction to starve the TTFF of funds.
"The T&T team, the manager, the flights and all the participation money will be seen about by the Ministry line by line, so Trinidad and Tobago is going to the Caribbean Cup," Roberts declared, when responding after the matter was raised in Parliament yesterday by Opposition Leader and MP for Diego Martin West, Dr Keith Rowley.
Harford said that the Ministry of Sport had a meeting with the TTFF at 10.30 a.m. yesterday when they announced they would be funding the team.
"They also announced that they will also have no dealings with me in the future. From now they say that they will deal directly with Mr Richard Groden (TTFF general secretary)."
Roberts's explanation was that funding was withheld because of discrepancies in the accounts supplied by Harford and alleged in Parliament that Harford had billed the Ministry over $.9 million for services rendered by his own All Sport Promotions company. Roberts further added that Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport, Ashwin Creed, had written Harford on several occasions asking for particular invoices, which were not supplied.
Harford yesterday denied the claims made by Roberts saying, "We provided the accounts on January 16 with a cover letter asking them to get back to us is in two weeks if there were any discrepancies. We never heard from them until September 12, that is eight months later. Then they sent a letter to the TTFF at 2.30 p.m. yesterday (Thursday) stating that they had contacted me on October 1 and 3 asking for further information. I never got any such correspondence from them."
He added: "Then to say I paid myself $936,000 when he (Roberts) knows there was an agreement between me and the TTFF that as managers of the campaign All Sport Promotion would get 15 per cent of the campaign budget... My business is sport. I work for a fee and the Minister is aware of the agreement. The campaign was to be $14 million, 15 per cent of which would be $2.1 million."
"We eventually settled on a deal of $1 million over a long campaign, initially at a rate of $50,000 per month. That covered all our expenses of running the secretariat, paying staff and so on. That is standard practice. I have never cheated in my life and I cannot just sit by and let 39 years of work go down the drain because of an irresponsible statement by one individual," a very angry Harford said.
Harford said Roberts may have parliamentary privilege, but he would supply all information and use every opportunity to prove that Roberts was not telling the truth.