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Sport Minister accused of deceiving Parliament

All Sport Promotions financial director Bruce Aanensen defended the reputation of his company and the integrity of his colleague Anthony Harford, in a press conference today at the Queen’s Park Oval, and has added to concerns that Sport Minister Anil Roberts might have willfully deceived the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament.

Aanensen, a former chairman at the Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago and the present Queen’s Park Cricket Club president, suggested that Roberts made allegations against Harford and All Sports while he knew—or reasonably ought to have known—that they were untrue.

Roberts told Parliament on 5 October 2012, during the Budget debate, that Harford improperly paid All Sport $936,250 and was unable to account for roughly $5.5 million of taxpayers’ money, which was meant to fund Trinidad and Tobago’s World Cup 2014 campaign.

Photo: Sport Minister and COP MP Anil Roberts.

However, Aanensen said Roberts selectively copied and pasted from two accounting statements to enact what he described as a scathing and unjust assault on the character of Harford and All Sport.

Roberts told Parliament that Harford only accounted for $5,611,933.25 from $11 million in his statement of income and expenditure on the 2014 World Cup campaign. The Sport Minister’s Permanent Secretary, Ashwin Creed, had put the same accusation to Harford in writing on 12 September 2012.

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Harford replied to Creed on 19 September 2012, two weeks before Roberts’ Parliamentary attack, and informed the Permanent Secretary that he had quoted from an interim statement given to the Ministry on 13 October 2011. He said that the Sport Ministry got the final statement of expenditure on 16 January 2012, which fully accounted for the entire $11 million plus gates and other sponsorship deals.

Interim Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) president Lennox Watson vouched for the accuracy of Harford’s assertion and Aanensen echoed his claim.

Even though the Sport Ministry had Harford’s explanation, Roberts delivered his attack anyway without seeking further clarification from the All Sport director.

“The attack preceded any meeting to allow Mr. Harford to explain all items of expenditure as requested in the covering letter of 16th January 2012,” said Aanensen.  “In so doing the Minister breached all tenets of natural justice.”

Aanensen was especially suspicious of one point raised by Roberts.

“During the attack in Parliament on Mr. Harford and All Sport Promotions, the Minister raised the questions of improper payments made to All Sport,” he said.  “The curious thing about his utterances, while holding up the interim statement and alleging that the Ministry has only received accounts explaining expenditure of  TT$5,611,983.25 which is the total expenditure to October 31st 2011, is that he very eloquently stated that Harford paid to himself TT$936,125.00.

“This figure was only included in the final accounts. How could he have known this amount without having received the final accounts?”

Did Roberts, despite having both accounting statements, willfully tailor his contribution from both documents so as to tarnish the reputation of Harford and All Sport and, at the same time, justify his Ministry’s refusal to fund national football?

Photo: TTFF marketing manager and All Sport Promotions director Anthony Harford.

Wired868 asked Roberts today, via the Sport Ministry’s communications officer Betty-Ann Moses, to explain why he quoted from the two accounting statements in that manner, whether he had intentionally misled Parliament and if he would subsequently apologise to Harford and All Sport.

Up to the time of publication, neither Roberts nor Creed had responded.

Aanensen also claimed that the TTFF had advised Roberts of All Sport’s role in the TTFF’s World Cup campaign and its respective management fee.

He described Roberts’ performance in Parliament as “unfortunate and disrespectful” and suggested that the Sport Minister might have been trying to regain the moral high ground after the public’s negative response to the poorly funded national football teams.

“I think that created some embarrassment for him and he responded,” Aanensen told Wired868. “The Permanent Secretary, in his emailed response, indicated that the reason for not funding was that the team’s performance was abysmal.

“When a decision was taken to withdraw the team from the tournament due to the lack of funding, and face the FIFA sanctions, the Minister suddenly had a change of heart to avoid a national uproar against his decision.”

Aanensen could think of no reason that the relationship between the Sport Ministry and All Sport has soured this badly beyond a controversial letter from then Works and Infrastructure Minister and ex-FIFA vice president Jack Warner on 20 April 2012.

Warner, who is now the National Security Minister, asked Roberts to starve the TTFF of funds due to its reluctance to nominate his preferred successor as Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president.

“If it wasn’t because of that letter,” said Aanensen, “then it is a significant coincidence.”

In the absence of government funding, All Sport claimed to have helped fund four national teams so far.

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago national senior football team ended with maximum points from its Caribbean Cup preliminary round duty in St Kitts and Nevis.
(Courtesy TTFF Media)

The “Soca Warriors” were again indebted to the sport management company this week when, stranded in St Kitts due to Tropical Storm Rafael, All Sport gave guarantees for their stay at the Ocean Terrace hotel. The national senior team, which won all three preliminary Caribbean Cup matches in St Kitts, still has not received funding that should have reached the squad manager William Wallace on 13 October 2012.

Aanensen hopes that the “powers-that-be” step forward to address the “irresponsible” attack on Harford and All Sport.

“We have not said what we expect or look forward to,” said Aanensen, “but we just hope that the powers that be would recognise that, based on the facts presented, they need to clear the air regarding what was said by the Minister based on the accounting of funds.

“I leave the nature of the response for the powers that be to decide and we are not making demands. If nothing happens, then the company would have to decide where we have to go from there.

“We are in this business for 24 years and it is unacceptable that a Minister would get up and make statements that are far from truth and damage the reputation of the company or an employee.”

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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  1. Isn’t there a law against lying to parliament? Who’s enforcing? The hansard is still used to record parliamentary proceedings, is it not? Can they not sue Roberts til he withdraws his statements? Surely something can be done – why aren’t they making demands? Who will if they do not?