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Roberts blames PNM for $23 m Sportt contract scandal
The alleged award of 83 projects valued $23 million to a company offering consultancy services is the centre of a corruption scandal at the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (Sportt). The latest revelation comes in the wake of an audit being conducted at Sportt, which is being blamed for the dismissal of several employees a week ago. Associated Services Ltd (ASL), owned by businessman Steve Rajpatty, has described the revelation of the 83 projects being awarded to the company as “mischievous.” ASL has been accused of being the preferred company for use of consultancy services at Sportt, which was set up under the People’s National Movement administration.
Ferreira: The wrong letterhead was used
And, fingers are being pointed at the board which was headed by Gerard Ferreira for the mess. But the former Sportt chairman has vehemently denied this allegation, blaming use of the wrong letterhead for the discrepancy. “Under my term we did not have the type of staff that is being talked about now. I started Sportt from scratch; we did not have a project manager and it is misunderstanding that ASL on speculation was used to evaluate jobs for us. The estimates were sent to the ministry on their (ASL) letter head. “We ran the Sportt company under the special policy under the Ministry of Finance as stipulated by the Prime Minister and Finance Minister. ASL was one of the few consultants hired by us. In one case they did eight or nine jobs. The project manger did not have a team at the time and sent the estimates on ASL’s letterhead and it was misunderstood that the contracts were given to ASL.”
Hunt stays clear...ordered probe
The former Sports Minister, Gary Hunt is staying clear from any blame for the scandal. He insisted that he ordered an investigation to stop all irregularities from occurring. “I did what was needed to be done. The information was brought to my attention and I acted,” Hunt declared. According to Sportt, accounting records obtained by Sunday Guardian, ASL is listed as being selected for design, tender document and project management on more than 40 occasions at sporting and recreational facilities in T&T. The scope of work, on all other projects—43 more—according to the accounting records, have not been defined. The records, however, show that ten per cent consultancy fees were paid to ASL totalling $14, 232,579.98. Records further revealed that in some cases there was double payment for the same services on 15 projects. This amounted to payments in excess of $5 million. Among them is the controversial Brian Lara Recreational Grounds.
Sunday Guardian has learnt that ASL forwarded numerous letters contending that Sportt is still owing outstanding payments totalling more than $4 million. “There are more questions than answers. If Sportt is really interested in cleaning up they have to start from the top. It is clear that the company was paying twice for the same job,” a senior official at the company revealed. “ASL was originally hired to do project management services but then they were used for structural/mechanical engineering and quantity surveying. “There are cases where there were payments and not even 50 per cent of the job was completed,” the source added. “It is totally scandalous,” the Sportt executive added.
ASL: It's Mischief
Denying the allegations in an interview yesterday, Rajpatty said: “We were client representatives. My company was never hired to do work at 83 sites. I am going to be honest and say you cannot possibly do everything right, but this is really, really shocking because reconciliation on accounts was done and it was agreed that an interim payment would be made and the balance will be paid. “Even the former Prime Minister, Patrick Manning assured me that my company would be paid. What is this about? “On the issue of double payment, Sportt need to implement a proper payment structure and start to use vouchers. They need to explain who is in possession of a $600,000 cheque before casting blame.”
Roberts: Blame the PNM
Minister of Sports Anil Roberts is blaming the PNM totally for the scandal. “It happened under the PNM. It was Dr Keith Rowley who said that some of the Special Purpose Companies in T&T were being run by mad people. “The report was requested by former minister, Gary Hunt. The ASL issue is one of the many alarming situations at Sportt. We are investigating how this was allowed to happen. “I am aware of the situation and we are hiring a new consultant to determine whether they owe us or we owe them. We are going to get to the bottom of this,” Roberts stated.
These projects listed by Sportt
Simeon Road Hard Court $293,855.92 (project payment) $182,635.82 (overpayment)
Mt St Benedict Football Field $760,814.80 (project payment) $474,710.38 (overpayment)
Chinapoo Hard Court $874,825.66 (project payment) $778,737.44 (overpayment)
La Fillete Recreation Grounds $264,007.80 (project payment) $188,495.35 (overpayment)
L’Anse Mitan Hard Court $275,097.83 (project payment) $ 215,118.41 (overpayment)
Wharf Trace Hard Court $483,198.65 (project payment) $326,261.05 (overpayment)
Sangre Grande Youth Indoor Facility $1,145,170.00 (project payment) $812,245.00 (overpayment)
Springvale $1,820,754.55 (project payment) $1,730,770.55 (overpayment)
Bayshore Hard Court Facility $315,484.10 (project payment) $37,519.87 (overpayment )
Las Lomas No 2 Recreation Grounds $233,724.34 (project payment) $38,993.24 (overpayment)
Sogren Trace Hard Court Facility $179,457.50 (project payment) $16,742.00 (overpayment)
Fanny Village, Point Fortin $329,940.40 (project payment) $249,354.91 (overpayment)
Cocorite Hard Court $375,158.51(project payment) $93,509.45 (overpayment)
Brian Lara Recreation Grounds $915,781.44 (project payment) $197,510.06 (overpayment)
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