Judge orders TTCB/NGC $$$ probe

Date: 
Tuesday, January 28, 2020 - 11:30

The T&T Crick­et Board (TTCB)  has been or­dered to ap­point a com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate the find­ings of a Na­tion­al Gas Com­pa­ny (NGC) au­dit in­to al­leged fi­nan­cial dis­crep­an­cies in the or­gan­i­sa­tion. 

High Court Judge Frank Seep­er­sad made the or­der at the Hall of Jus­tice in Port-of-Spain on Mon­day morn­ing, as he de­liv­ered a 23-page judge­ment in a law­suit, brought by for­mer TTCB pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Di­nanath Ram­nar­ine af­ter his de­feat in last year's ex­ec­u­tive elec­tions. 

 

While Seep­er­sad dis­missed Ram­nar­ine's sub­stan­tive claim over the el­i­gi­bil­i­ty of TTCB zon­al and af­fil­i­ate rep­re­sen­ta­tives to vote in the elec­tions, he up­held his (Ram­nar­ine) con­cerns over the NGC au­dit re­port. 

"Hav­ing re­gard to the out­lined du­ties, this court holds the view that the TTCB's con­duct in ig­nor­ing and/or re­fus­ing and/or ne­glect­ing to in­quire in­to the mat­ters raised by the NGC Au­dit is in­con­sis­tent with the du­ty to act in the best in­ter­est and wel­fare of crick­et," Seep­er­sad said, as he not­ed that the re­port raised sig­nif­i­cant con­cerns over the TTCB's man­age­ment of its fi­nances. 

As he not­ed that the court did not want to usurp the TTCB's au­thor­i­ty, Seep­er­sad or­dered that a five-mem­ber com­mit­tee in­clud­ing Ram­nar­ine should be ap­point­ed to in­ves­ti­gate the al­le­ga­tions. 

Un­der Seep­er­sad's or­der, the re­main­ing four mem­bers are to be ap­point­ed with­in 30 days, with their terms of ref­er­ence be­ing de­cid­ed by TTCB and Ram­nar­ine's lawyers with­in 15 days of the judge­ment. 

The com­mit­tee will be giv­en 120 days in which to com­plete its work and must hand over copies of its fi­nal re­port to af­fil­i­ates, zon­al rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and the Min­is­ter of Sport, with­in 30 days of its com­ple­tion. 

As part of the judge­ment, the for­mer leg-spin­ner and past pres­i­dent of the West In­dies Play­ers' As­so­ci­a­tion (WIPA), was or­dered to pay half the TTCB's le­gal costs for de­fend­ing the law­suit. 

Ram­nar­ine's law­suit cen­tred around the 21 TTCB zon­al rep­re­sen­ta­tives from sev­en zon­al coun­cils and 10 af­fil­i­ate rep­re­sen­ta­tives, who were among the mem­bers that were al­lowed to vote in the elec­tions on Jan­u­ary 17, last year. The oth­er vot­ing mem­bers are the six in­cum­bent ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers, their six nom­i­nat­ed mem­bers, and six Na­tion­al League rep­re­sen­ta­tives.  

Ram­nar­ine con­tend­ed that sev­er­al of the rep­re­sen­ta­tives should not have been al­lowed to vote as their or­gan­i­sa­tions had not com­plied with the TTCB Con­sti­tu­tion, which re­quires them to con­tin­u­ous­ly sub­mit their fi­nan­cial and an­nu­al re­ports. 

Seep­er­sad re­ject­ed Ram­nar­ine's claim, as he not­ed that com­pli­ance with the re­quire­ments may be im­prac­ti­cal and could ham­per the de­vel­op­ment of the sport. 

"A gen­er­al flex­i­ble ap­proach has to be adopt­ed in re­la­tion to the zones and it can­not be said that the fail­ure to strict­ly com­ply with ar­ti­cles of the zon­al reg­u­la­tions should de­ter delin­quent zones from par­tic­i­pat­ing in the ex­ec­u­tive elec­tions, no­tably the con­sti­tu­tion makes no ex­press pro­vi­sion for the adop­tion of such a stance," he said. 

Seep­er­sad al­so dis­missed Ram­nar­ine's claim that the af­fil­i­ates such as rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the pri­ma­ry and sec­ondary school leagues and the Um­pires As­so­ci­a­tion had an un­fair ad­van­tage in the elec­tions as they al­so have the right to vote in zon­al coun­cil elec­tions as well as for the TTCB ex­ec­u­tive. 

Seep­er­sad not­ed that the af­fil­i­ates' 10 votes did not ma­te­ri­al­ly im­pact the elec­tion re­sults which saw TTCB Pres­i­dent Az­im Bas­sarath se­cure his fourth term at the helm. 

Ram­nar­ine's law­suit came al­most four months af­ter he and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Na­tion­al League Com­mit­tee lost an­oth­er law­suit chal­leng­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion's elec­tion rules. The elec­tions were orig­i­nal­ly due to take place in Oc­to­ber 2017 but were post­poned pend­ing the de­ter­mi­na­tion of that case. 

In that case, Ram­nar­ine was al­leg­ing that the elec­tion rule gov­ern­ing votes for in­cum­bent ex­ec­u­tive mem­bers was un­fair, il­le­gal, and un­de­mo­c­ra­t­ic.

The group was seek­ing amend­ments which in­clude the re­moval of out­go­ing votes, a one club-one vote sys­tem and a term lim­it for TTCB pres­i­dent. 

The claim was dis­missed by Jus­tice Jacque­line Wil­son, who ruled that the court could not in­ter­vene in the dis­pute. 

The first case came months af­ter the Na­tion­al Gas Com­pa­ny (NGC) con­duct­ed an au­dit in­to the TTCB for al­leged mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of its spon­sor­ship mon­ey. NGC's au­dit cen­tred around al­most $13 mil­lion in spon­sor­ship, it pro­vid­ed to the TTCB, be­tween 2014 and 2016. 

The re­port, which was leaked in June 2018, al­leged­ly stat­ed that 24 per cent of the funds were not used as stip­u­lat­ed. It al­so ac­cused the TTCB of uni­lat­er­al­ly re­al­lo­cat­ing $2,983,000 in un­used fund­ing to it­self and fail­ing to keep prop­er ac­count­ing records.

Ram­nar­ine was rep­re­sent­ed by Vivek Lakhan-Joseph, Kiel Tak­lals­ingh, and Ra­jesh Budu­dass, while Odai Ramis­c­hand, Navin­dra Ram­nanan, and Shiv­anand Ram­nanan rep­re­sent­ed the TTCB. 

Ram­nar­ine Re­sponds

In a press re­lease is­sued short­ly af­ter Seep­er­sad's judge­ment on Mon­day, Ram­nar­ine said he was pleased with the out­come es­pe­cial­ly with the ap­point­ment of the com­mit­tee. 

Ram­nar­ine claimed that he de­cid­ed to bring the case af­ter ob­serv­ing the TTCB's non­cha­lant and dis­mis­sive ap­proach in deal­ing with is­sues with trans­paren­cy and ac­count­abil­i­ty in the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

"This in my view marks a sig­nif­i­cant oc­ca­sion in which the Ho­n­ourable Court has de­mand­ed that the TTCB can no longer hide or ig­nore such se­ri­ous is­sues and must ac­count not on­ly to its mem­bers and stake­hold­ers but to the pub­lic of this coun­try," he said. 

He not­ed that the judge­ment would stand as a prece­dent in deal­ing with al­le­ga­tions of fi­nan­cial im­pro­pri­ety, wrong­do­ing, and mis­con­duct in oth­er sport­ing bod­ies. 

Ram­nar­ine al­so called on Bas­sarath and mem­bers of his ex­ec­u­tive to re­sign based on the fact that they were en­trust­ed with the man­age­ment of the NGC con­tract. 

Reporter: Derek Achong

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