The LifeSport programme has not granted scholarships to 25 members of the programme.
Contrary to statements made by Sport Minister Anil Roberts in Parliament, 25 individuals from the controversial programme have not been granted visas or scholarships or are even currently enrolled at the Christian Victory Academy in New York, USA.
Further, the pupils were not even part of the LifeSport programme but are all enrolled in secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago.
On June 27, Roberts, responding to a motion to censure him, bought by Opposition MP Colm Imbert, stated: “People talk about a programme and have no clue what it is about. Twenty-five are on scholarship—to the Christian Victory Academy in New York.
So, not only did they get ID and passport, they get visa to go outside to the Christian Academy on scholarship to make something of themselves, but the PNM (People’s National Movement) say leave them in the street, let them shoot out each other. All right, that is your policy, that is not this Government’s policy.”
Investigations by the Sunday Express into alleged financial improprieties in the LifeSport programme, which is conducted by the Ministry of Sport, showed only four out of 25 pupils were selected for scholarships to the New York-based institution.
When LifeSport was launched in 2012, its target group was young men between 16-25 years who had transgressions with the law.
The programme was supposed to be a rehabilitative one through sports.
But when the Sunday Express obtained a list of the 25 pupils who were identified for scholarships, there were noticeable differences in the composition of the list:
1. The pupils are between the ages 13-17. One was 13 years old, seven were 14 years old, six were 15 years old, seven were 16 and four were 17.
2. Eight of the 25 were girls.
3. They are all enrolled in secondary schools.
The Sunday Express obtained an e-mail from Pastor Anthony Seaton from the Christian Victory Academy, who outlined how the institution became involved.
Seaton and his wife, Barbara (the principal), run the institution.
He said he was first alerted by an employee from the Ministry of Sport who was a tenant at his Morvant home.
He explained the employee (name called) had “requested a letter of intent to evict for non-payment of rent to submit to the Ministry of Sport because he said he had not been paid from the LifeSport Programme for awhile”.
“The individual who was handling the situation with the LifeSport programme called to assure that (name called) will be paid shortly because he was presently addressing the matter.
This was to stay the eviction. While having that conversation with the individual, who identified himself as Mr Adolphus Daniell, I mentioned our programme and he said send him the information and he will see if it is something viable to present to those powers that be,” Seaton explained.
Seaton said after he received approval, he travelled to Trinidad and Tobago to meet with permanent secretary in the Ministry of Sport Ashwin Creed and his tenant, who had now become his representative.
Seaton said Creed was interested in doing “half of the proposal, which was US$325,000 for 25 students per year till they graduate”.
“Our part was to pay the other half and do everything else since it was our programme that they were assisting. We would do the entire programme, including securing visas for the students,” Seaton said.
He said they had received the ministry’s approval for the partnership, as well as to select the students.
He said a concern was expressed about the funding of the programme by Immigration and a meeting was held in February with US Embassy officials, Creed, director of LifeSport Cornelius Prince and “one other lady from the ministry”.
“It was an extremely good meeting and resulted in PS Creed promising to have the funds in the account within the week. As soon as the funds are deposited in an account designated for these students, their visas will be released and they would be on their way,” he explained.
Seaton said he had to register the corporation in Trinidad under the church’s name and open an account, which was done at First Citizens.
Seaton said the ministry deposited TT$325,000, instead of US$325,000.
He said he sent a letter to Creed, informing him of the oversight and requesting the adjustment.
He noted that subsequently, the programme received national attention, which delayed the processing of the students.
“We had selected four of the 25 students based on age, gender, compliance and timeliness, based on the application process,” he said.
He said the children had stopped going to their secondary schools once they knew they had been selected for the programme, which “made our decision easy and less complicated”.
At the moment, Seaton said the academy has stopped processing the four students.
Seaton had previously tried an initiative to recruit students through former PNM Sport Minister Roger Boynes but had not been successful.
The LifeSport programme is currently being audited by the Ministry of Finance’s Central Audit Committee.
Finance Minister Larry Howai, in an e-mail to the Sunday Express yesterday, said while the auditors had been asked to look into the scholarships, he was not in a position to report on the matter.
Meanwhile the auditors interviewed Creed last week at the Ministry of Finance’s offices in Port of Spain.
Creed’s lawyer, Peter Taylor, did not respond to whether the permanent secretary would answer questions on the alleged scholarships.
Daniell, who was the recipient of a contract from LifeSport to teach Maths and English to the participants of the programme, was also interviewed by the auditors last week.
Roberts did not respond to calls or text messages by the Sunday Express yesterday.
LifeSport, which has already cost taxpayers about $400 million, was moved from the Ministry of Sport to the Ministry of National Security after it was revealed there were financial irregularities and it was funding criminal elements.