Sunday, January 21, 2018

Participants put on a demo: See, we are not ghosts


spirited response: Michael Greenidge, centre, a participant of the LifeSport programme in Carapo, explains his plight in song to members of the media following yesterday’s news conference at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva. Looking on are other members of the LifeSport Programme from his district. —Photo: DEXTER PHILIP

Mark Fraser

No Ghosts. That was the chant by hundreds of participants of the People’s Partnership Government’s LifeSport programme, as they gathered at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva yesterday.

Members held a media conference to prove to the public that the programme was alive.

And LifeSport programme director, Cornelius Price, declared that members would welcome an independent probe into the initiative–a brainchild of Minister of Sport Anil Roberts.

Price disputed the contents of a Sunday Express article that the LifeSport programme was financing criminals. Minister of National Security, Gary Griffith, alleged in the article that ghost names were enrolled in the programme.

Price said, “Three audits were conducted thus far on the programme, two by the Central Audit Committee of the Ministry of Finance, with the full blessings of the Honourable Anil Roberts, Minister of Sport, and one by the Auditor General’s Department as part of the course of the normal annual audit of government ministries and departments.

“The findings were similar in many respects, pointing to some administrative/accounting controls and systems issues but not any massive irregularities. In fact all the queries raised were answered and the pertinent recommendations were taken on board.”

He said not a single entity or group has received more than what the programme was designed to deliver.

Pointing to the participants, Price said, “Ladies and gentlemen meet your ghosts ... they are all around you.”

Price said there were 40 LifeSport centres throughout the country, catering for 2097 participants. “Let me again state that the article is woefully short on fact, for all centres have varying numbers of participants based on the actual needs of the specific community,” he said.

He also disputed claims that the LifeSport programme was one way in which the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen has been funded through the Government in the past two years.

Price said participants received a stipend of $1,500 per month. He said each co-ordinator received a fee of $17,000 a month to plan, organise and execute all activities association with centre operations.

Regarding reports that $8 million was spent on a family day, Price said, “We reject outright that ludicrous suggestion.”

He said the two functions recently hosted by the LifeSport programme were estimated at under $1 million.

—Carolyn Kissoon