The Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) today turned the tables on Sport Minister Anil Roberts and insisted that the TTFF marketing manager and All Sport Promotions director Anthony Harford was being honest about World Cup 2014 funding and not the Congress of the People (COP) MP.
And, in a statement signed by acting TTFF president Lennox Watson, the football body asked Roberts to withdraw his statement.
“The TTFF is satisfied that All Sport has received only the funds agreed,” stated Watson, “and that the company has worked tirelessly to improve the standard of administration of the game, through a professional and dedicated team…
“All Sport has funded four camps and travel for the national teams in the absence of government or other funding. In the circumstances, the TTFF feels the Minister should withdraw his statement.”
Roberts accused Harford, during the budget debate last Friday, of failing to account for over $5 million in taxpayers’ money and improperly transferring funds to All Sport.
“When Mr Harford presented to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Sport, who is the accounting officer, the account of the 11 million dollars (spent),” said Roberts. “There were some discrepancies and (a) lack of information…
“(And) when the Auditor General went through the statement, it was seen that Anthony Harford as head of the authorisation committee, when given $11 million of taxpayers’ money went on to pay himself $936,250.
“He paid himself to himself.”
National Security Minister and former TTFF special advisor Jack Warner further slammed Harford in Parliament yesterday for taking a 15 percent administrative fee for his marketing duties.
Arguably, Warner and Roberts took contradictory positions.
If Warner knew about All Sport’s commission, then why did Roberts say he did not know the private company was involved although the Sport Minister was the feature speaker when Harford’s new role in football was revealed at a press conference on 12 August 2011?
The TTFF insisted that Roberts was being untruthful in his recollection and further stated that Warner’s figure was double what All Sport was actually paid.
“The TTFF engaged the services of All Sport in July 2011 with the concurrence of the Ministry of Sport,” stated Watson, “with a specific mandate of setting up a Marketing and Events Division to handle a wide range of services…
“All Sport agreed to reduce its service fees quote when advised that there were no funds available at the time. The revised quote was fifty percent of the original figure.
“The TTFF further confirms that it received from All Sport a full statement of accounts for the entire allocation of 11 million dollars from the Government plus an additional 1.3 million earned from sponsors, gate receipts etc.”
Arguably, the detail that might be of particular interest in proving whether or not Roberts intentionally misled Parliament is the date that the Ministry of Sport received the TTFF’s statement of expenditure.
On 12 September 2012, Ministry of Sport Permanent Secretary Ashin Creed wrote to Harford and accused him of submitting an incomplete financial statement, which was referred to as “TTFF Marketing invoice number 2001/TTFFMKT 100.”
Although Roberts claimed not to know All Sport was involved with the TTFF’s marketing, his Permanent Secretary sent his letter to the All Sport address at 9 Long Circular Road, St James.
Harford responded, a week later, and explained that the Permanent Secretary was quoting from an interim statement provided by TTFF marketing on 31 October 2011. He told Creed that the final statement of expenses was delivered on 16 January 2012, which the TTFF confirmed today.
“It is unfortunate that your letter (…) should seek to imply that the TTFF Marketing/All Sport Promotion Ltd has not properly accounted for the funds provided by the Ministry of Sport,” stated Harford’s response to the Ministry. “This is of particular concern to us since the final accounts were delivered since 16 January 2012 and your letter of 12 September 2012, some eight months later, does not seem to acknowledge receipt of these accounts which were delivered to you personally.”
Two weeks after Harford’s letter, Roberts repeated the accusation against the All Sport director in Parliament. Curiously though, the Sport Minister changed the date of receipt and claimed that he was reading from an accounting statement received in January 2012.
Unless Roberts can show “TTFF Marketing invoice number 2001/TTFFMKT 100” and prove that the date received was 16 January 2012, he may have some explaining to do.
Ironically, Roberts’ attack on Harford came as he sought to defend his Ministry against accusations of dishonesty by Opposition Leader Keith Rowley. Rowley suggested that the Sport Minister refused to fund the TTFF since he received a letter from Warner, which asked him to starve the sport body of funds.
Wired868 exclusively revealed the existence of Warner’s letter on 7 May 2012 and then published the letter on October 2012. This online site also wrote on the Sport Ministry’s accusation as well as Harford’s response on 4 October 2012—a day before Roberts’ presentation in Parliament.
It was an open secret that the Opposition would raise the controversial letter in Parliament on Friday. A few hours before Rowley did so, the Sport Ministry agreed to pay just over $400,000 for the Trinidad and Tobago senior national football team’s Caribbean Cup participation this week on the grounds that it would not deal with Harford.
The “Soca Warriors” team plays its first qualifier tomorrow against French Guiana.
The TTFF waited until the senior team was safely in St Kitts and Nevis before releasing its statement today, which contradicts the Sport Minister. TTFF press officer Shaun Fuentes claimed that Trinidad and Tobago’s financial wobbles provided light relief at a press conference in St Kitts today, which was attended by all four participating teams.
Wired868 contacted Creed for comment on the TTFF’s stance as well as the differing statements from the two organisations. He hung up.