...even as security concerns hold up audit

The Life Sport programme, in its original format, no longer exists. A massive restructuring planned for the beleagured programme effectively shuts down the whole existing system and gives the new line minister—National Security Minister Gary Griffith—iron control over the multi-million dollar outreach programme. Griffith takes control of the programme even as Finance Minister Larry Howai has extended the audit deadline by another two weeks.

“I expect that the audit should be completed in the next two weeks...A lot of work had to be done in verifying payments as well as in visiting the various centres,” Howai said in an e-mail exchange with the Sunday Guardian on Friday. The Sunday Guardian has learned that the auditing delay was due to Central Audit Unit investigators’ fear of visiting some of the Life Sport centres. Howai confirmed that lack of security has created a snag for the Life Sport audit.

“It did impact on the time taken,” Howai said in response to e-mailed questions. He said the Ministry of National Security “did advise that security should be provided and they did in fact provide security for certain visits.” The Sunday Guardian has been told that the security will speed up investigations and allow the report to be completed within the new two-week deadline. Despite the incomplete audit, Griffith is expected to officially take over the programme tomorrow.

Howai said though Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar placed Life Sport under Griffith’s ministry several weeks ago (during the People’s Partnership four-year anniversary gathering on May 24), Griffith was waiting on “formal Cabinet approval before he took over the programme.” Griffith, in a text exchange on Friday, confirmed that he would be assuming full control of the programme from tomorrow. “Yes. With effect from Monday no payment is to be made unless this ministry (National Security) approves it,” he said.

“If they buy a dinner mint, I want to see that dinner mint,” Griffith said. The Sunday Guardian understands that Griffith has already planned sweeping changes which includes the removal of the existing executive and management.  The latter changes would only happen, however, when Howai’s audit is completed. The Sunday Guardian was informed that Griffith has made it known to those within the Life Sport programme that after the audit is completed he “intended to clean up house.”

The NEW Life Sport:

Liaisons with Various Sporting Federations:

By working with various sporting federations and associations, the Life Sport programme will be able to identify qualified coaches and trainers. Life Sport would use its fund to retain those professionals who would then be distributed to the various centres to conduct coaching clinics and help develop sporting skills. Such skills development would go beyond the actual playing of the sport to include the official aspect of the game, such as the refereeing of matches and scoring of games.

It may also include the logistical aspect, including the preparation of pitches, fields and courts with the correct markings, and ensuring that equipment is of the requisite standard. Besides the T&T Olympic Committee, other federations that may be approached for collaboration include the following:

● National Amateur Athletic Association of T&T
● T&T Football Federation
● T&T Cricket Board of Control
● T&T Hockey Board
● T&T Swimming Association
● T&T Badminton Association
● National Basketball Federation of T&T
● T&T Target Archery Federation
● T&T Amateur Boxing Association
● T&T Judo Association
● T&T Amateur Gymnastics Association (TTAGA)
● T&T Netball Association
● T&T Rugby Football Union
● T&T Table Tennis Association
● Tennis Association of T&T
● T&T Volleyball Federation

There is also a proposal to have sport icons work with the youth in the programme to encourage them to follow their dreams in various sporting disciplines. Several icons have already offered their services and are expected to work alongside the certified coaches and trainers.

The revamped Life Sport will cover troubled areas having at-risk youths, as well as be open to any youth that can benefit from this type of programme. Communities on the fringes of depressed communities will also be included. The programmes will also target older members of the community who can become trainers and coaches not only in the area of sports but in areas such as education, nutrition, hygiene and general welfare.

The Physical Training instructors (PTI) department and sport teams of the Defence Force will be heavily involved in monitoring this programme. It is envisaged that the presence of these Defence Force men and women will provide a safeguard against infiltration by known gang members. Defence Force personnel will also ensure that programme participants and supporting staff are not intimidated or threatened, and they will act as monitors.

The Defence Force will also infuse a measure of discipline into the participants, and foster the building of traits expected from sport that are useful in everyday life, including punctuality, discipline, uniformity, adherence to instructions, teamwork and leadership, to name a few.