Cabinet has given approval for major changes at the Ministry of Sport, including replacing Permanent Secretary Richard Oliver with Gillian Mc Intyre and transferring some departments to the Ministry of Education. The Physical Education and Sport Division, with all its all coaches and sport officers has been transferred to the Ministry of Education, while facilities, indoor arenas, pools and district offices will now be under the purview of the Sport Company of T&T (SporTT).

Staff at the ministry told the T&T Guardian they are baffled at the changes. “The entire ministry is in a mess because staff from the other sections have no idea as to what they are supposed to do. The major department that they support is no longer a part of the ministry,” a member of staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

“We have not been told about these changes and we find it distasteful and unfair by the minister himself. We wondering now what is next to go. Morale within the ministry is very low. Some of us don’t even feel like reporting to work anymore,” the staff member said. T&T Guardian obtained a copy of the Cabinet Minute No 1049 of May 7, 2015, which confirmed the transfer of positions from the staff establishment of the Ministry of Sport (Physical Education and Sport Division) to the staff establishment of the Ministry of Education.

Cabinet subsequently agreed to the transfer with immediate effect of a director of Physical Education and Sport, an assistant director, a physical education and sport officer II; seven physical education and sport officers I, two games coaches and several other members of staff.

Cabinet also agreed that the Ministry of Sport be the sole source for disbursement of grant funds to national sporting organisations, sport serving bodies and individuals. All requests for financial assistance for overseas travel in respect to sporting events must be submitted for the approval of Cabinet.

The note stated: “Cabinet is advised that the NPI Vote is budgeted to be $57 million for the current financial year. Approximately 70 per cent is expended on overseas travel, which is not related to international tournaments. The majority of requests are last minute submissions.

“In this regard, the Ministry of Sport proposes that all requests for grant funding should be submitted at least three months in advance of the event and that overseas travel must receive the approval of Cabinet. The Cabinet is also asked to note that a list of recipients and amounts received from the grant fund would be published annually,.”

The Ministry of Sport will be responsible for payment of salaries and related costs for permanent, temporary, and contract staff transferred to the Ministry of Education and the SporTT for the remainder of the 2014/2015 financial year. A framework of rules to guide the decision making of the Grant Fund Committee is being finalised and will be presented to Cabinet in the revised National Sports Policy

Contacted yesterday for comment, Minister of Sport Brent Sancho said the changes, although approved by Cabinet, are currently on hold. “We are going to head there but we will need to have proper dialogue because we are looking to revamp and relook at sport policies and structure. We are still sculpting what the ministry will look like. We have to find a way to generate an income through sports as well,” he said.

Sancho said the changes are necessary because a Sporting Academy is to be established under the Ministry of Education. He said the replacement of Richard Oliver as Permanent Secretary was done through the Office of the Prime Minister. “Mr Oliver has served his time as PS and we thank him for that but now Gillian has started off and she has already hit the ground running,” he said.

Coaches needed in schools

The Ministry of Sport has reported the success of the sporting coaching programme in schools to which coaches are assigned. It was determined that there would be a greater impact if there was more direct access to children in primary and secondary schools. These programmes can be better monitored by the Ministry of Education where principals and administrators can have an input into management, supervision and evaluation.

There is an increasing demand for coaching services outside the more popular sporting disciplines, which can be better introduced in the school system. In addition, foreign coaches would be better utilised in unearthing and developing talent in the school system.

At present, the Ministry of Education has requested coaches in 11 sporting disciplines to facilitate programmes in 139 secondary schools and 468 primary Schools. It is estimated that a minimum of 30 additional coaches would be required for a start-up of the additional planned programmes
The Ministry of Sport proposes to partner with the SporTT to design and implement programmes to develop coaches to a certified standard.