Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissesar has called in the police to investigate allegations of massive corruption involving millions of dollars in the controversial Life Sport Program, which targeted young, unemployed youths to move away from a life of crime.
In one case, according to an audit conducted by the Ministry of Finance, an educator was paid TT$34 million from the Life Sport Program for no work.
Persad-Bissessar told Parliament last Friday that the audit had revealed several discrepancies, including procurement breaches; the involvement of some persons in criminal activities; fraud by suppliers; theft of equipment; breaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act and a deviation from the mandate of Cabinet.
The Life Sport Program, which was the brainchild of the Minister of Sports Anil Roberts, has been terminated.
As she disclosed some of the findings, she expressed her own “shock,” “deep, personal disappointment and dismay that a program that was intended to save lives, to build lives, was used by a group of people for fraud and personal gain.”
The sports minister sat in the House of Representatives at times thumping the desk over some of the revelations that were made by the prime minister.
The prime minister noted that the Audit Committee raised questions regarding possible complicity by officers of the ministry given the widespread nature of the breaches.
Persad-Bissessar bemoaned the fact that a group of people derailed the good intentions of the program, giving their support to criminality, in some cases, rather than to the country’s young people.
“Because of the actions of a few, this program will have to be halted,” she said.
The prime minister assured the nation as government moved forward implementing social programs, it would not tolerate wrong-doing, corruption and the abuse of programs, “meant to save our people, for selfish, personal gains.”.
Persad-Bissessar said she has instructed the attorney general to hand over the report to the director of public prosecutions (DPP), the commissioner of police, “to investigate, detain and prosecute those guilty to the fullest extent of the law.”
Despite calls for Sports Minister Roberts to step down from office, he claimed that he had no knowledge of the corruption taking place in the Life Sport Program.
The sports minister said he would not be resigning his Cabinet portfolio despite allegations of impropriety unearthed by the Ministry of Finance.
Roberts said; “it is a very sad day to know that a program that was helping young black boys, who were on the streets committing crime, over 2,250 of them, is forced to be halted because of the greed by certain people.”