Guyana Cricket Board in serious financial situation

The Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) is on the verge of financial collapse and the monies in its coffers may not last to the end of this month, sources said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Auditor General has since indicated that it would have to name a private accounting firm to audit the financial records of the board—one of the decisions taken at a meeting the board’s executive had with Minister of Sport Dr Frank Anthony six weeks ago.

Stabroek News has been reliably informed that treasurer Sheik Asif Ahmad, at an executive meeting of the board last Thursday, reported that it was on the “verge of a financial collapse” and that it only had $6 million in its coffers. He also reportedly said the money would be spent by month end to pay outstanding bills.

“That came as a shock to us because before we were led to believe that the board had money,” an executive member told Stabroek News, adding that members of the executive had been told then “that the board was in good financial stead.”

Board members at the previous meeting had indicated that they had lost confidence in Ahmad and had recommended that he be relieved of his post. Sources said Ahmad was late for the meeting and the minutes of the previous meeting were ratified before he came and in. Ahmad had told Stabroek News that he knew nothing of such a decision but sources said board President Chetram Singh indicated that he would have communicated the loss of confidence to Ahmad. Singh was not present at last Thursday’s meeting since he is out of the country but members said the issue would be raised with him on his return.

Sources yesterday said that while members were shocked at the new developments, some were not surprised considering the extent of spending by the board to build the two hostels at La Bonne Intention (LBI) and Anna Regina. Stabroek News was told that at the end of the first quarter of last year, before the two hostels were completed, the board had some $112 million. The two hostels reportedly went past the budgeted sum and in the case of the LBI hostel it may have been as much as $25 million more.

According to sources, the monthly operating cost of the board is $1.5 million and $1.1 million of that sum is for the payment of salaries. One source pointed out that the executive members are not paid but the administrative staff and the different cricket coaches have to be paid monthly. The board is in an even more difficult position as for two years it has not received any subvention from the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), which is itself cash strapped.

Added to that, last weekend’s Digicel T/20 Summer Smash Tournament at the Guyana Cricket Stadium “bombed out,” according to sources, as on both days only 120 persons attended in a facility that can accommodate 15,600 persons. The event was held as a fundraiser and tickets were sold for $500 and it was hoped that a large crowd would have turned out.

But coming four days after the DJ Stress T/20 tournament, which according to sources had 7,000 persons in attendance, it was described as a bad idea and questions were raised about the rationale behind having the events so close to each other. Sources also pointed out that there was little or no marketing for the GCB’s event while on the other hand DJ Stress’s T/20 event was well marketed.

The board has summer camps and other cricketing events that it is committed to during the next months but hard questions are being asked about where the money to fund these events will come from. While monies are expected from the recent T/20 World Cup tournament, no one can say when.

Financial audit

Stabroek News was told that at last Thursday’s meeting, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport Alfred King, who was mandated to attend the executive meetings of the board, reported that the Auditor General’s office has indicated that it would be unable to conduct the audit of the board’s financial record but would appoint a company to do so. The special audit was one of the decisions taken at the meeting, which was summoned by Minister Anthony following concerns about the board’s finances and the in-fighting among board members.

Sources said the Auditor General’s office has also requested the financial records of the board and, according to King, it was pointed out by the office that the board should have appointed an accounting firm to audit its books some time ago instead of waiting for this situation. Sources noted that at a March meeting a decision was taken to hire the services of a well known accounting to firm to look at the financial records but this decision was overturned by a senior member of the board who was not present when the decision was made.

Meanwhile, Design and Construction Services Limited (DCSL) is yet to start it work on reviewing the two hostels, another of the decisions taken at the meeting with the minister. There were reports that both of the hostels—only recently completed— had cracks in the walls while doors and toilet and other fittings were coming loose. The construction firm is expected to conduct a value-for-money review but it was again pointed out recently that there was no defects liability clause in any of the two contracts and as such the board has no way of holding the construction companies liable.

This newspaper was told that at last Thursday’s meeting there were more complaints about the LBI hostel, with reports revealing that the tiles on the kitchen floor were coming loose and those on the cupboards “coming off and being packed away.” Stabroek News was reliably informed that members of the Under-19 team were recently encamped there and the stay was very uncomfortable as the lights and fans were not working. Further, this newspaper was told that the players were unable to make full use of the indoor practice facility as the “run-up is too short and not suitable for fast bowlers.”

King also reported at last week’s meeting that the Attorney General has advised that the most recent constitution of the board should be the one used to govern its activities since that is the only one registered. Some board members had expressed concerns over the use of two constitutions, an old and new one, with some pointing out that the new one was not presented to the executive to be ratified.

This newspaper was told that the GCB only became registered under the Friendly Societies Act last year and the new constitution as a result was also registered. The old constitution, which governed the board for some 20 years, was never registered.

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