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Life Fund fails to meet investment requirement

..and is now more scrupulous with funds

By Aabida Allaham aabida.allaham@trinidadexpress.com

TWO years after the Children's Life Fund (CLF) was established, the board has failed to meet the requirements outlined in the Children's Life Fund Act 12 of 2010.

Specifically, section 4d which states that the authority must "collect and invest funds", and section 9b which states that the board shall "ensure that the Children's Life Fund is prudentially managed based on best practices used for investments of a similar nature".

To date, the fund is worth an estimated $28.6 million and is being held at First Citizens bank, account number 1962050. It is financed by donations from Government ministers—all of whom have made contributions to the Fund from their salaries since June 2010—private citizens, national and international organisations.

Around this same time last year, former CLF chief executive officer Geoffrey Lewis told the media the fund had raised in excess of $50 million after receiving a US$5 million donation from Caribbean Airlines.

The Express understands the money is supposed to be invested in a high-income growth fund locally or abroad, according to the Act, but Children's Life Fund chairman, Varun Maharaj, said the economy is "too volatile" to take such a risk.

An executive director at ANSA Merchant Bank Ltd, Maharaj recently told the Express, via telephone, that "the present environment is not suitable".

He added that a lot of the "investment opportunities out there will expose the capital so we have to go back to the drawing board to ensure the capital is protected.

"I have at least 20 years experience in the field; up to this point in time we have not been presented with the appropriate investment vehicle in the Trinidad and Tobago financial environment which ensures capital preservation. (I) may have to look to US financial market for the vehicle which matches our appetite for risk," he said via e-mail yesterday.

Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan said he is aware that the fund has yet to be invested and agrees with Maharaj in this regard.

"Varun is a financial man, he understands finance, and if he thinks that the economic situation is too volatile, then I trust that."

"And I understand that they are looking for ways that will yield great returns on the money," he said.

However, in addition to the board's "prudent" pace when it comes to finding an investment portfolio, Express understands that less than a dozen children have actually benefitted from the fund since 2011.

Furthermore, information received by the Express indicates that at least 13 of the children on the list received funding via the Financial Assistance to the Necessitous Patients Programme, otherwise known as the Medical Aid Programme. Yet the board boasts of having assisted 36 children since its inception, according to a list provided by the CLF.

Chairman of the CLF, Varun Maharaj, explained that the board has received close to 200 applications for assistance since its inception in 2010 and it has tried to assist in various ways, including using the Medical Aid Programme, in order to get funding as the Authority was not fully established until January 2011.

The Act itself was passed on November 23, 2010 and later revised on December 10, 2010.

Asked for an explanation regarding the low number of fund recipients since 2011, Maharaj said they were being "more scrupulous" with the money.

"We are mandated to treat life-threatening cases, the fund is for children with life-threatening illnesses that cannot be treated locally, so before while they have tried to assist everyone we now have to be more particular with how we are distributing the funds, and it says so in the Act," he said.

Maharaj added that as part of the selection criteria, recipients must be processed and prioritised by the unit manager, "and then the cases are taken to a volunteer specialist panel of doctors for review".

As to the reason so many of the cases were referred to Wolfson Children's Hospital, Jacksonville, Florida,—a total of 15 times—, Maharaj said it was based on "experience".

"They have a proven track record, and they are the best, that is why," he said.

Asked whether they had a partnership agreement with the hospital or whether they received a discount or other benefit for the referrals to the hospital, Maharaj said no.

When the Express asked for a listing of the exact amount of money donated by each person or company, Maharaj said he was not prepared to divulge that information.

He said many of the donations were given by private citizens and they may not want their identities known. Additionally, he said they were currently in the process of having the Authority's financial records audited.

"When that is done, hopefully by the end of the year, I will let you know that," he said.

LIST OF DONORS

In addition to the donations below all Ministers of Government and the Prime Minister have made contributions to the Fund from their salaries since June 2010.

2001 Carpet House Ltd.

A-1 Auto Supplies

The Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Trinidad (Inc)

Indian High Commission Women's Group

Mr Amer Haider

Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers

Territorial Services Ltd

Ashmead Ali Contracting Services Ltd.

Bombay Dreams

Arya Samaaj Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago

Bank of Baroda (Trinidad and Tobago) Ltd

National Energy Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago

Prime Minister Charity Golf Classic

The Christmas Flea Market Committee

The Greater Tunapuna Chamber of Industry and Commerce

Xtatik Ltd

Columbus Communications

The Rotary Club of Penal

Ms Aarti Gosine

Mr. Betty Peter

Bran Marc

Ms Danielle du Boulay

Mrs Kathryn Hosein

Mr Paola Henderson

Mr Sean Rambaran

Recipients of the Children's Life Fund

After November 2011

Justin Chanka, Jan 2012, Repair of Tetralogy of Fallot with a RV-PA Conduit, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Canada

Mesut Hosein, Jan 2012, Cranofacial and Orthopaedics/Plastic Surgery for Aperts Syndrome, Miami Children's Hospital, USA

Shania Hernandez, April 2012, Corrective surgery for Congenital Heart Disease (Tricuspid atresia with Pulmonary Atresia), Wolfson Children's Hospital, USA

Alisha Lalchan, April 2012, Corrective surgery for Congenital Heart Disease (Anomalous origin of left coronary artery from pulmonary artery), Wolfson Children's Hospital, USA

Giovanni Pierre, April 2012, Corrective surgery for Congenital Heart Disease–Tetralogy of Fallot, Wolfson Children's Hospital, USA

Kimberly Martin, April 2012, Corrective surgery for Turner Syndrome with Severe Mitral Stenosis, Wolfson Children's Hospital, USA

J'Nasha Amaya Wahadali, April 2012, BT Shunt, Bustamante Children's Hospital, Jamaica

Alexander Mastay, May 2012, Coarctation of the Aorta, Wolfson Children's Hospital, USA

Angelina Beepath, July 2012, Biliary Atresia , Especialistas en Trasplante Hepatico (ETHe) Argentina

Arielle Phillip, Sept 2012, Endocardial Cushion Defect; Pulmonary Hypertension; Down's Syndrome, Children's Hospital Boston, USA

Angelle Ramsamooj, Sept 2012, Congenital Heart Disease Ventricular Septal Defect and Pulmonary Hypertension, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Canada

Kymani Leacock, Oct 2012, Coarctation of the Aorta, Wolfson Children's Hospital, USA

Raveena Rambharose, Complex Congenital heart disease: Dextrocardia; Patent Ductus Arteriosus; Pulmonary Stenosis; Large Atrial Septal Defect; Single Ventricle common Atrioventricular valve with regurgitation; Transposition of the Great Arteries, Wolfson Children's Hospital, USA

Prior to November 2011

Christa Brumant, June 2010, Rehabilitative care for transverse myelitis, Kennedy Kreiger Institute, Maryland, USA

Analece Kerr, June 2010, Emergency heart surgery, Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami

Josh Lalla, July 2010, Open heart surgery, Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami

Kayla Maryoung, July 2010, Ballon valvuloplastyat, University of Mississippi Medical Centre, USA

Chavlon Gray, Sept 2010 & Nov. 2010, 1) Diagnostic Cardiac Catherization. 2) VSD Closure, Miami Children's Hospital, USA

Mulakai Murai, Aug. 2010 & Aug. 2011, 1) Ventricular Aneyrysm. 2) Mitral valve replacement, Wolfson Children's Hospital, Jacksonville, USA

Syrai Corbie, Sept 2010, Reimbursement of medical expenses,

Karesh Deopersad, Sept 2010, Emergency heart surgery, Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami

Judah Lovell, Nov 2010, Reconstructive surgery, Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami

Adel Spence, Nov 2010, Eye surgery, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, USA

Sarah de Pont, Nov 2010, Multidisciplinary assessment, Clinical del Country, Bogota, Columbia

Hakim Prime, Nov 2010, Medical evaluation and management, Miami Children's Hospital, USA

Sapphire Jagmohan, Dec 2010, Heart surgery, Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami

Sabir Bocus, Jan 2011, Surgical correction for congestive heart failure,

Ojarie Portillo, Feb 2011, Coarctation of the aorta, Wolfson Children's Hospital, Jacksonville, USA

Sarvesh Dindial, Feb 2011, PVC ablation, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, USA

Jeshua Campbell, Feb 2011, surgery and embolization, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Ohio, USA

Breanna Olton, Feb 2011, Repair of sinus and partial anamolous pulmonary venous return, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, USA

Aasima Mohammed, Feb 2011 and Apr 2011, Diagnostic assessment, Johns Hopkins International, Baltimore, USA

Ravi Ramroop, Mar 2011, Corrective surgery for congenital heart defect, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Ohio, USA

Rashawn Sebro, Mar 2011, Corrective surgery for congenital heart defect, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Ohio, USA

Gareth Joseph, Mar 2011, Post Fossa Cranitomy, the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) Canada

Ariella Bazzard, May 2011, Liver transplant, Hospital Ricardo Gutierrez, Argentina

Aijolan Simmons, June 2011, Surgery for large ASD with coarctation of the aorta, Wolfson Children's Hospital, Jacksonville, USA

Shania Dickerson, June 2011, Surgery for Tetralogy of Fallot, Wolfson Children's Hospital, Jacksonville, USA

Nghana Amora, June 2011, Surgery for Tetralogy of Fallot, Wolfson Children's Hospital, Jacksonville, USA

Daniel Saleem Sookdeo, June 2011, Surgery for atrioventricular septal defect, Wolfson Children's Hospital, Jacksonville, USA

Garyl Simmons, June 2011, Surgery for Tetralogy of Fallot, Wolfson Children's Hospital, Jacksonville, USA

Michael Battersby, Aug 2011, Proton Beam Therapy, University of Texas MD Anderson Centre, USA

Tayla Marie Bessor, Aug 2011, Transfer to hospital, Miami Children's Hospital, USA

Aaliyah Henry, Aug 2011, Medical evaluation by a Paediatric Nephrologist, Miami Children's Hospital, USA

Ceece Goodridge, Sept 2011, Bloodless surgery for thoracic scoliosis, Centro Clinico La Isabelica, C.A. Venezuela

Jessica Manohar, Oct 2011, Treatment for acute vomitting, seizures and severe malnutrition, Miami Children's Hospital, USA

Alejandro Joseph, Oct 2011, Screening and surgery, Badia Hand to Shoulder Center, USA

Khaden Smith, Nov 2011, Examination under anaesthesia by a Glaucoma Specialist and surgery to improve outflow drainage, Moorfield's Eye Hospital, England

Semoia Carey, Nov 2011, Cardiac procedures, Bustamante, Jamaica.

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