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Thu, Jan

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Anil RobertsMinister of Sport Anil Roberts said that his Ministry had paid $170,000 of the original $423,000 budget the TTFF submitted for the senior team's first round series in Caribbean Cup group V played between October 10-14 in St Kitts-Nevis.

Roberts added, by the end of the verification of payment process the majority of the budget would be covered by his Ministry.

The $169,926 figure represents the team's airfare of $122,900 to Lazarri & Sampson Travel Service Limited and $47,026 for hotel and accommodation, Roberts said.

But in an October 24 letter to permanent secretary Ashwin Creed, TTFF general secretary Richard Groden returned a $47,000 cheque made out to senior team manager William Wallace, saying that the TTFF "cannot hold itself responsible for monies paid to individuals" and that Wallace was not authorised to negotiate government's support to the T&TFF or to collect monies allocated to national football.

"The TTFF's principal representative in these matters is its general secretary," Groden wrote.

But Roberts said Groden was playing games with football and that given the TTFF's record of failure to pay nearly $1 million to former senior team management, even though the money was disbursed to the local football organisation for that purpose, the Ministry had adopted a different policy. The contract of the majority of that former staff came to an end since January 2011.

"The Ministry has neither the time nor the compunction to deal with Mr Groden and his shenanigans especially after it has been proven that Mr Groden had presented inflated and embellished budgets in the past. The permanent secretary and his staff have no faith in Mr Groden's ability to handle public funds and therefore to ensure transparency and accountability. We are paying the money to Mr. Wallace under whom the responsibility lies for the handling of this cost," Roberts said.

Concerning the unpaid stipends and fees expected to tally over $200,000, Roberts added that senior team manager Wallace is to meet with Creed within the next few days to verify monies owed to players, technical officials and support staff for that tour, an amount he said would be between US$1,000 and $1,500 per person, which would take a huge chunk out of the remainder of the budget.

But Roberts said, after the verification process between Creed and Wallace, which he expected to be a slow process, the Ministry would make the payments individually to each member of the team because he did not want a repeat of the TTFF's non-payment of nearly $1 million to former senior team management,

Contacted, yesterday Wallace refused to comment, indicating that the TTFF was the relevant body to issue information. However, a TTFF source expressed disappointment with the Sports Ministry's $47,000 cheque.

"That amount is not what was needed to cover the trip to St Kitts-Nevis. No one has a clue what this $47,000 is for because it does not represent a single line in the budget. We thought they would have used the initial budget which was presented for $423,900. But, it doesn't seem so and they were already saying a cheque was ready before even consulting us about what was spent," the source, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

Roberts, meanwhile, said the Ministry will continue to help the senior national team in its buildup to the Caribbean Cup semifinal round of qualifying, from November 14. He said the Ministry is also set to meet with the technical director and other stakeholders to discuss estimates and budgets for the development of football for next year and beyond.

During a debate in early October, Roberts said in Parliament that "The tickets, the flight, and all the particulars necessary for our national team will be seen about by the Ministry (of Sport) line by line. So, Trinidad and Tobago is going to the Caribbean Cup with value and with tax-payer money being spent properly."

At a subsequent media conference, Roberts said the senior national football team now fell in the development category and deserved substantial funding.

Roberts initially declined to fund the team, before he changed his mind when various stakeholders including Opposition Leader Keith Rowley raised objection.

Roberts also said that the TTFF should not expect full funding since all NSOs were funded between 33 1/3 to 50 percent of their submitted budgets, and the TTFF was subject to the same standards.

Calls to Groden's phone, yesterday, went unanswered, and his voicemail was said to be full.