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Anil: Sport Ministry on trail of 'missing' $81m

By Akile Simon

Sport and Youth Affairs Minister Anil Roberts said yesterday that a financial audit has been launched to determine where the $81 million allocated for the refurbishment of stadiums throughout the country went.

According to Roberts, the recently concluded Women's FIFA under-17 World Cup football tournament was in serious jeopardy ten days before the event kicked off because the various stadiums that were earmarked for refurbishment remained in a dilapidated condition.

Roberts was speaking with reporters at the VIP lounge at Piarco International Airport, where he and other ministers had gone to welcome Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar back to Trinidad and Tobago from New York.

"Challenges (we had) were ten days before the FIFA under-17 World Cup. There could have been no world cup. The stadiums were dilapidated.

"Right now there is a forensic audit going on in the Sport Company and we have the Auditor General's report which shows that the money was allocated and misappropriated.

"It was not spent on what it should have been spent on and we are going to solve that problem," Roberts said.

He said the Sport Ministry was seeking to find a suitable company to deal with the maintenance of the various stadiums which would save Government millions of dollars.

Roberts announced a "master plan" for all the facilities.

He expressed hope that the Sport Company of T&T (Sportt) board will be appointed very shortly, "but the first thing we are going to do is tender out for a facilities management expert company so that we don't have to come every two years and spend $100 million".

"If we want to go in the general direction of sport tourism, we have to upkeep and maintain facilities at an international challenge," the Minister said.

He also commended the staff at the Sport Ministry, the local organising committee for the world cup and local contractor, for working 24-hours during the ten days leading up to the start of the world cup to ensure the facilities were ready for the various games.

He said he hoped Minister Jack Warner would use his FIFA office to assist in this country hosting another world cup event.

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