private MOTION: Diego Martin North East MP Colm Imbert makes his contribution at yesterday’s sitting of the Lower House at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain. —Photo: ANISTO ALVES
Heated LifeSport protest inside and outside Parliament
by Ria Taitt Political Editor
An armed militia of about 250 men is being cultivated at Carapo on State lands, “posing a threat to the national security of the country,” according to Diego Martin North East MP Colm Imbert.
“In fact, the group is building a huge infrastructure on the State lands funded by the Government,” he added.
He said the funds were coming through the corrupt administration of the LifeSport programme and he linked Rajaee Ali, a main member of the Carapo group, to the murder of the late Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal. (See Pages 4 and 5)
And the Minister of National Security was aware of all of this, Imbert said.
Imbert also asked why the minister in charge of State lands was not dealing with “this growing presence of this criminal enterprise in Carapo”.
“We making joke in this country, you know!” Imbert said as he stressed this was a very serious situation. He asked what was the Prime Minister doing about this.
Speaking on a private motion filed by him in Parliament at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, Imbert called on the House “to censure Sport Minister Anil Roberts for facilitating through the LifeSport Programme the funding of criminals and criminal enterprise”.
Imbert said the “reality” of the LifeSport programme was “rampant ghosts, corruption, contracts being given to bogus companies, people being threatened”.
“You could try and gloss it over and say it is just a typographical error on an invoice. But the bullet that killed Mr (Curtis) Gibson is not a typographical error. I call on the Prime Minister and the Government to deal with this problem,” he said.
“The minister (Roberts) ... must take responsibility for this wanton criminality in the LifeSport programme,” he said.
He said the programme was “out of control ... the minister could say what he want. He is fooling no one”.
Imbert said before entering Parliament yesterday a group of thugs attempted to intimidate him on a vehicle with “boom boxes”.
He said: “I come here today to raise this motion and thugs are coming down Wrightson Road and stand up next to me and trying to intimidate me with a microphone. I mean, is a good thing is a public place, otherwise I might be a statistic like Dana Seetahal.
“Who knows, when I go home tonight as I enter my gate, I could become a statistic because I have dared to expose the fact that an accused murderer was hired by the Ministry of Sport to run the programme. But Mr Speaker, I have confidence in the security agencies of Trinidad and Tobago. I expect that they would take appropriate measures and that I would be protected after I have exposed this cancer, this evil in the LifeSport programme.”
Imbert said he did an audit of two of the LifeSport programmes in two centres and found 90 “ghost participants”.
He said in one centre there were 60 people on payroll, 60 cheques being prepared each month, totalling $90,000. “But based on my audit the number of persons in that centre receiving instruction was 20. “Forty people are unaccounted for. And this is a physical audit ... is not what anybody tell me ... I went and looked with meh own eyes,” he said.
Imbert said at the second centre 60 persons were also on payroll and $90,000 being paid, but he counted ten (people receiving instruction). “Ninety ghosts in just two centres...over $100,000 of taxpayers’ money being stolen every month,” he said.
Furthermore, Imbert said in each of these centres, $80,000 is spent on catering each month. He said many of these meals are shared to passers-by. He said the programmes also were to have academic instruction in the morning and sporting activities in the evening. But, in the time he was there, he observed participants doing nothing morning and afternoon. “Just sitting, doing nothing, all day long,” he said.
Imbert said several mechanisms were used in the programme to commit fraud. One was the use of bogus companies to manipulate the bidding procedures.
He said the Public Service rules require that there are three bids for any contract. “My understanding is that ... quotes are coming in from three or four companies but several of these companies are imaginary. They are not listed in the companies’ registry. So they are making up fake invoices, sending in high bids and the successful bid is in reality the only bid,” he said.
Stating that this was borne out by the Auditor General’s report, Imbert added he wanted the Prime Minister to look into four companies—SOS West Indies Ltd, Nisal Construction and Maintenance Services Ltd, D&B Engineering Company Ltd, Home and Commercial Interior Furnishings. “Find out how many of those companies bid for contracts in the Ministry of Sport, find out how many of them got contracts and how many of these companies are bogus and don’t exist,” Imbert stated.
Turning to the Auditor-General report, Imbert said the report found multiple payments were paid to the same people but in different areas. One payment of $400,000 was made to a company but a search of the online company’s registry revealed no company with that name, he said.