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Value for money

...Minister calls for more accountability in sport

By Mark Pouchet

MOST of this country's national sporting organisations (NSOs) have signed off on the service level agreements (SLA) that will usher in better accountability and transparency measures for taxpayers' money.

This according to Minister of Sport Anil Roberts, who said that "98 per cent" of NSOs have already put ink to paper.

"The NSOs understand Christmas time is over you have to account for taxpayers money," Roberts told the Express recently. "You get money, please just account for it, whether you're an elite athlete (or an) NSO, focus, account, bring bills, invoices and receipts and everything will be good."

The Sport Minister continued: "We had some hiccups, with one or two associations who felt that over the years that when they got taxpayers' money, they could do with it as they please. That will not be allowed to happen, that will never happen, that will not be accepted, and moving forward I think every association has gotten that message."

Roberts revealed that the SLA stipulates that the Ministry of Sport and its implementation arm, SPORTT (the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago) will provide the NSOs with money based on a policy that devotes 60 per cent of funding to development, and 40 per cent of funding at the elite level.

He wants the NSOs to provide documentation including audited accounts, bill, invoices receipts to ensure accountability, which will ensure that money continues to flow to them.

"If people are in breach of that, money will cease flowing, and the SPORTT or Ministry will take up the task of going line by line through the items," Roberts stated, adding that NSOs will be classified into two tiers.

"Those who account properly and provide legitimate bills, don't inflate their budgets, don't try to trick the Government, those (in Tier One) will be given the responsibility to handle their money," he said.

"The others who think they are smart and would like to take funds and do with it as they please, they will be Tier Two, which means you have a hotel expense, the Ministry or SPORTT will pay the hotel bill directly to the supplier, caterer, tickets, whatever it is, salaries; we will let the people come directly and collect."

Roberts said the Ministry of Sport's current policy for NSO funding ranges from 33 1/3 to 50 per cent of the finalised budgets.

The assessment of how much an NSO receives is performance-based, and based on whether an NSO demonstrates a good record of producing proper accounts, delivering them on time and showing increases in mass participation, coaching programmes and competitions.

"If an NSO is delayed in their accounts and don't show improvement in their affairs, they will be lower down by the 33 1/3 per cent range," he said.

Roberts said the Ministry of Sport and SPORTT had formed a unified policy and were showing a synergy for the first time. He expressed pride at the fact that the SPORTT had held its first AGM since 2005, and completed audited accounts from 2006-2010 with 2011 currently being processed.

SPORTT, the Minister said, has produced the articles of association for good accountability, and good governing practices have been implemented. He is also encouraged that Minister of Finance Larry Howai had included sport in the divestment of the economy, a move Roberts believes will create sustainable jobs in the country.

Projects like the George Bovell III National Aquatic Centre, the national cycling Velodrome, and the National Tennis Centre, according to the Minister's update, are "ongoing and going very smoothly".

Nine regional centres are to be built, with four already started and another five slated to begin by March, while 105 recreational grounds have been upgraded, with 32 more will receive additional upgrades.

Roberts also applauded T&T's best Olympic performance this year, as well as the launch of the Olympic movie and the archiving of sporting achievements.

"We have done quite a lot and we will continue to work to make sure we get value for money," Roberts concluded.

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