Saturday, February 17, 2018

$200,000 a month to cut grass

LifeSport revealed:


PARLIAMENT PROTEST: Members of the LifeSport programme on June 27 outside Parliament at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, during their demonstration in support of the programme. —Photo: ANISTO ALVES

Mark Fraser

LifeSport paid companies $200,000 a month to cut grass in the recreation grounds where the programme was held.

Friends of Ministry of Sport officials, soldiers and a journalist were beneficiaries of those LifeSport contracts.

The Ministry of Sport submitted documents to the Ministry of Finance requesting the $200,000 a month “for (3 sports/fields) x 33 venues for 24 months”.

The funding, with 33 centres, would work out to a cost of $6.6 million a month.

It would have cost taxpayers $79.2 million in 2013.

Documents obtained from the Ministry of Sport show that nine companies were contracted to maintain 26 recreation grounds.

Of the nine companies, two companies with a common incorporator—James Dedier—maintain eight recreation grounds.

Those two companies are S.O.S West Indies Limited and Reno Energy Company Limited.

Reno Energy Company Limited, based in Edinburgh 500 in Chaguanas, has the contracts to maintain Carapo Recreation Ground, Morvant Recreation Ground, Point Fortin Recreation Ground and Samaroo Recreation Ground.

S.O.S West Indies Limited, which is based at the same address, has the contract to maintain Mt Dor Recreation Ground, La Horquetta Recreation Ground, Maraval Recreation Ground and Moruga Recreation Ground.

Contacted yesterday on the contracts, Jolene Legere, director at Reno Energy, said: “You have said who you are. I do not know who you are so I can’t speak to you.”

Roamfort Enterprises, based in Balmain, Couva, is owned by a soldier, Andy Berahazar, with another soldier, Anthony Superville, as a director.

 Roamfort was contracted to maintain four grounds—Maloney Recreation Ground, Enterprise Recreation Ground, Carenage Recreation Ground and La Romaine Recreation Ground.

Walter Alibey, a sports reporter at Newsday newspaper, through his company Agro Aggressive Organisation and Maintenance Services Limited, also received a contract from the LifeSport programme.

Alibey was the reporter on the stories about the death threat on the life of  Ruth Marchan, deputy director of Physical Education and Sport at the Ministry of Sport, and the corruption she exposed about how $34 million was paid from LifeSport funds for Math and English lessons to a well-known educator, but no work was done.

Contacted yesterday, Alibey said he started the company since 2011 and has worked for different organisations.

“They called me for the contract and I went for it,” he said.

Questioned on whether it was not a conflict of interest then for his reporting on Marchan’s death threat, he replied: “I didn’t know all this was going to happen. I didn’t foresee all this was happening.”

He said he had a friendship with Marchan for more than 20 years.

The Sunday Express was unable to find one of the nine companies which had a contract for four of the recreation grounds.

The matter is being reviewed by the Central Audit Committee of the Ministry of Finance.

The Sunday Express understands that despite the exorbitant sum paid to companies by LifeSport to maintain the grounds, they were actually being maintained by the regional corporations of the respective areas.

National Security Minister Gary Griffith yesterday said the contracts were the key to unravelling how millions of taxpayers dollars were spent.

“Giving one person tens of thousands of dollars in a brown paper bag with claims of handing it over to invisible  participants because they have no bank account has to be  a sick joke. If that is not a sign of financial mismanagement, questionable activity and incompetence, then I don’t know what is,” said Griffith.

“Jump high, jump low, no desperate PR spin with advisors to ministers openly making adverse statements about me, or paying people to assemble in front of Parliament, or senior officials of the Programme getting a handful of people together to state that there are no ghosts when it is supposed to be over 1,800, but then claim that their life is at risk because of the same Programme that they claimed was so pure, would deter me from cleaning up the Programme.

 “Read my lips—there would be no room for  ghosts, financial mismanagement, or  persons of interest in LifeSport,” he added.  

“I would ensure that no gang leader has access to State funding. I also do not believe in the practice of paying people not to commit crime. If you sleep with the Devil, there is a price to pay, and I have no intention for our citizens to pay that price. This is not a witchhunt. But I am not going to have any criminal acquire State resources and funding to fuel crime.

 “Next stop is URP (Unemployment Relief Programme). If they don’t change their ways and want to continue killing youths to fight for contracts, they would lose it. They can’t have their cake and eat it.”