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.
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