Sunday, January 21, 2018

How the LifeSport contract went from $12m to $34m


‘Made recommendation’: Ashwin Creed

Mark Fraser

On September 4, 2012, Adolphus Daniell, a director of eBeam Interact, submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Sport to teach math and English throughout Trinidad as part of the LifeSport programme.

The cost of that two-year programme was $7.5 million for the first year and $4.5 million for the second year—a total of $12 million. Two months later, on November 4, 2012, Danie­ll again submitted the proposal to the ministry. This time, the cost of the two-year programme was revised to $11 million for the first year and $11 million for the second year—a total of $22 million.

There were no material changes to the two proposals titled “Proposal for Mathematics and English Language courses for participants at thirty-eight LifeSport centres in Trinidad and Tobago”, of which the Express has a copy, except the cost. On December 6, 2012, a contract was signed by Daniell, whose registered office is at LP#52 John Street, Montrose, and the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT).

The total on the contract was $34 million. The scope of services in the contract was copied straight from Daniell’s proposal, but there was no justification for the costs although a justification for sole-selection, dated November 23, was attached to the contract. “It should be noted that the budget for literacy and numeracy is exclusively to meet the cost of teachers, quality assurance and the monitoring component. There is no direct cost to eBeam Interact Ltd for supplying these service elements.

In addition, the programme costs have been bud­geted for technology equipment and installation. Given the sensitive nature of this programme, the Ministry of Sport supports this implementation approach of utilising the services of sole select supplier,” the justification for sole select stated. Daniell’s first $12 million proposal had stated the equipment required for his teaching engagement would be one eBeam engage system (complete), one laptop, one high-resolution multimedia projector and a digital student-response system which is commonly called a voting system.

Further, each facilitator would be given one 16-gigabyte USB flash drive. In addition, he required a high-definition digital camcorder and appropriate accessories. He also said a biometric time-and-attendance system would be installed at each centre.

In addition, for that $12 million cost, SporTT would have been the recipient of:

• a high-resolution multimedia projector for all 38 centres;

• high-resolution multimedia projectors for all 38 centres;

• laptop computers for all 38 centres;

• digital camcorders for all 38 centres;

• automated student-response system for each class group at all 38 centres;

• 2,300 student-response clickers (one for each participant);

• web-enabled, biometric time-and-attendance system for all 38 centres;

• hosting fees and monthly fees associated with Cloud storage;

• Integrated management information system;

• web-portal development and confi­guration;

• web-portal implementation, ongoing maintenance and support cost of training all users;

• development and production of training manuals and cost of other training resources;

• cost of installation of all hardware;

• licensing fees;

• shipping and handling;

• internal transportation of equipment and ongoing travel of personnel management fees;

• production of monthly reports;

• miscellaneous costs.

At $22 million, those services remained the same.

But after a $34 million contract was signed, no work was done and the SporTT company does not have any of the equipment which it would have expended sums to cover. According to eBeam, which is distribu­ted by US-based Luidia Inc, Daniell’s Educational Community Ltd is its sole Trinidad distributor. The Express understands each eBeam device costs under US$1,000.

An invoice submitted to the Ministry of Sport by eBeam Interact showed a total cost of all equipment for the LifeSport centres at US$125,590 (TT$797,496.50). The Express tried to contact Daniell in an attempt to understand how the cost had escalated and whether he had acquired the equipment for the programme and, if so, whether he left the equipment he had obtained with SporTT. On the first attempt, the Express was told: “Please do not contact me again.

Thank you.”The Express again tried to contact Daniell last Saturday and was told: “I have asked you not to call me again. Could you please respect that?” before the call was ended.

Creed and the contract

EBeam Interact was registered on August 9, 2007, by attorney Allison Eustace Luther Roberts, of Roberts and Company. He is the father of former sport minister Anil Roberts. The directors of the company are Daniell and Gloria Kirton. On March 8, 2013, the SporTT company had a board meeting in the Giselle Salandy Room of its offices at Henry Street, Port of Spain.

Among the issues discussed was the contract to EBeam.

The board minutes stated: “The board ratified the decision made on 6th December 2012 to award the contract for the numeracy and literacy components of the LifeSport programme to eBeam Interact Limited in the sum of TT$34 million based on the fact, among other things, that the recommendation was made by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Sport (Ashwin Creed) to the CEO of SporTT (then John Mollenthiel).

Board approval will be required for any additional payment in excess of the TT$34 million to EBeam Interact Limited for the numeracy and literacy component of the LifeSport programme.” For its $34 million, EBeam was paid in two installments of $17 million—the first installment which represented 50 per cent of the fee was paid on June 14, 2013, and the second payment was done on February 11, 2014.

At a news conference last Friday, Creed’s lawyer, Peter Taylor, said his client was being made a scapegoat. “The permanent secretary cannot direct the board. He can advise. The special-purpose company is a legal entity on to itself,” Taylor said in defence of Creed.

Last Thursday, Cabinet fired the SporTT board, which was chaired by Sebastien Paddington and included Reynold Bala, Norris Blanc, Nisa Dass, Anyl Gopeesingh, Sabrenah Khayyam, Matthew Quamina, Annan Ramnanansingh, Kent Samlal, Milson Siboo and Harnarine Singh.

Mollenthiel resigned from the company two months ago. Contacted last Saturday on whether he was aware of a friendship between his father and Daniell, the former sport minis­ter explained his father was a lawyer with over 50 years in practice and was surprised he had registered Daniell’s company. He said no recommendation ever came from him to the SporTT board to approve Daniell’s contract.

‘Major, deliberate obstacles’

On September 16, 2013, Daniell sent a document to Mollenthiel requesting an update on why the programme was not yet started. Daniell insisted the centres were not ready with the format for teaching being very structured. He noted EBeam had acquired 38 EBeam Interactive Whiteboard systems, 38 laptop computers and 43 printers, which it was under no obligation to do, 38 high-resolution multimedia projectors, 76 USB drives of 16GB and a voting system.

In the document, Daniell stated: “Suddenly, and regrettably, eBeam has encountered major, deliberate obstacles and open interference as it attempts to execute its contractual obligations related to the technology component. In one brazen case, an executive order was issued to eBeam to cease the essential manual activity of acquiring a true record of the daily attendance of all staff and participants at all the LifeSport centres.

“Further, that instruction was reinforced by a well-orchestrated act of violent intimidation, which included the confiscation, and destruction of government equipment in the process. “These treacherous acts ensured that eBeam stopped the recording of all other relevant data that could expose financial and other irregularities within the LifeSport programme.”

Audits and the EBeam contract

The EBeam contract was highlighted in the Ministry of Finance’s Central Audit Committee’s July 2014 audit report into LifeSport, which has now been forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Integrity Commission, the Commissioner of Police and the head of the Public Service.

However, in November 2013, the Ministry of Finance’s audit committee had compiled an interim report of the Life­Sport programme and had voiced concerns about Daniell. That report stated: “Central Audit noted that EBeam, played an unusual role in the programme, for example loans were issued to the Ministry of Sport. Staff also involved in the programme indicated that Mr Daniell of EBeam personally interacted with other contractors such as the coordinators, coaches, caterers, etc, and he tried to run the programme as he saw fit.

For example, he paid coaches an additional salary from his personal funds and was subsequently reimbursed by the MSYA (Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs); Central Audit was not provided with the approval for the re-payment to EBeam.”

The recommendation by the Central Audit then was that the current contract be cancelled or renegotiated so that SporTT will have better control of the monies expended toward the component of the programme. It was in November 11, 2013, that SporTT got legal advice from its head of legal, Lisa Solomon, to pay Daniell his outstanding $17 million payment.

Daniell received his second payment on February 11, 2014, without once having taught a lesson at LifeSport.