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SPORTT sack CEO Montserin, Blake and three more staffers; ex-employees vow to sue Gov’t

Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) CEO Adam Montserin and facility manager Anthony Blake were among five executive level employees who were sacked today, after the completion of a forensic audit of the company.

The audit was done by PWC, who was supposedly hired by the Ministry of the Attorney General. Wired868 understands that Jeewan Kowlessar (Internal Auditor), Naveen Maraj (Legal Officer) and Mellie Price (Project Administrator) complete the list of fired SPORTT staffers.

Photo: Ex-National Security Minister and TTFA security advisor Gary Griffith (left) surveys his surroundings before kick off between Trinidad and Tobago and the United States in 2018 World Cup qualifying action on 8 June 2017 in Commerce City, Colorado.
Looking on are Sport Company facility manager Anthony Blake (right) and TTFA manager Richard Piper.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

The five were among eight SPORTT staff members who were sent on administrative leave in mid-July to facilitate the audit. The eight staff members were initially suspended for 45 days but, in the end, it took three and a half months before a decision was reached.

SPORTT director Jason Louis Julien was dismissed in July.

“In relation to the eight employees who were sent on administrative leave, a total of five employees have been dismissed,” stated a SPORTT release today. “These employees were dismissed for various reasons but some were dismissed for conduct during the audit as well as certain findings made during the audit. No decision has been made to dismiss the remaining three employees at this time and it is expected that their contracts with SPORTT will run their course.

“Due to the sensitivity of the matter, SPORTT will not make any further statements on the issue.”

The three remaining employees are: Darryl Stewart (Procurement Supervisor), Raj Ramtahal (Senior Manager Facilities Maintenance) and Travis Watson (Project Co-ordinator).

However, Wired868 understands that the trio were told not to report for work at the Sport Company and were essentially bought out for the remainder of their contracts, which expires in December.

Photo: SPORTT CEO Adam Montserin (centre) greets players and officials before kick off between Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 10 March 2017.
TTFA vice-president Ewing Davis (right) broke away from the customary pre-game ritual to take a phone call.
(Copyright CAI Images/Wired868)

The current SPORTT chairman is Dinanath Ramnarine who succeeded Michael Phillips at the helm in May 2017.

One of the eight employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that SPORTT has refused to say why anyone was dismissed beyond a vague reference to the audit.

Maraj, the former legal officer, was allegedly told that SPORTT had lost all confidence in him for supposedly wiping his phone via remote means. He allegedly removed his Google account information from his phone—while it was in PWC’s possession—as a means of supposedly protecting personal information like family photographs and credit card information. He was fired anyway.

All eight employees, according to the source, intend to sue SPORTT for false imprisonment and wrongful and unfair dismissal.

“[In July], the chairman invited us to a meeting which was supposed to chart a way forward for the company,” said the source. “In the interest of full and frank discussion, we were asked to put our cell phones in a bag. Ramnarine went outside with the back and came back with two persons who he said were PWC officials.

Photo: Ex-WIPA president and current SPORTT chairman Dinanath Ramnarine.
(Courtesy RJRNewsonline)

“We then told them that they took our private phones along with our company phones and we wanted those back as they had private information with pictures, family messages, credit card information and so on. But they did not return it and probably scanned them all.

“We were told that we could not leave the room and, when I asked to use the bathroom, I saw a policeman in tactical gear outside our door with a buckshot. So even though they did not tell us were being imprisoned that is what happened for about two hours—our liberty was restricted.

“That is how this audit started, with dishonesty and a high handed approach.”

Neither Sport Minister Darryl Smith nor Ramnarine have given any details on the forensic audit or the supposed indiscretions of the eight employees so far—even to fellow SPORTT board members.

On Monday 30 October, SPORTT director Richard McFarlane wrote to Ramnarine and the board requesting information about the audit and expressing concerns about the investigation as well as other matters such as the Shanghai Construction Group (SCG) maintenance contract and SPORTT’s supposedly adversarial approach to the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) with regards to its subvention.

Photo: Prime Minister Keith Rowley (centre) greets SPORTT CEO Dinanath Ramnarine (left) while Sport Minister Darryl Smith (right) looks on during the opening of the Brian Lara Cricket Stadium in Tarouba on 12 May 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

McFarlane, in his letter, suggested that there was no board decision which authorised the audit and questioned media linkages between the probe and SCG issue. He also listed several “concerns” about the PWC operation.

“If this is an action of the AG’s office why is the company footing the bill? Is this audit related to the SCG contract? If it is, why does it not include other relevant employees such as […] the financial comptroller and his staff?

“How were employees identified for auditing? […] I remain very uncomfortable as I […] continue to sense that not all information re SPORTT is shared with me.”

McFarlane also alleged that fellow director Phillip Whiteman failed to declare a conflict of interest with SCG while he participated in discussions about the company’s maintenance contract with SPORTT.

“I am concerned that director Whiteman, who has deliberated with conviction on the SCG contract, has been a subcontractor of the said company and has never disclosed it to the Board,” stated McFarlane. “[…] Were the Chairman and directors aware? If not, why was this apparent conflict not indicated to the board and recorded in the minutes of any board meeting?

Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (right) makes a pass at Minister of Public Utilities Fitzgerald Hinds.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

“This is a revelation that could have very serious implications and could taint all previous discussions held where director Whiteman may have been involved. One could argue that the contributions of the said Director could have influenced the behavior of other directors and the course of actions thus far with regards to the SCG contract.”

McFarlane also criticised SPORTT for the handling of Julien’s removal—“[with] no regard for his image and name”—and urged Ramnarine to make Martin Daly SC’s legal opinion on the SCG contract available to the board.

“I am still unaware as to whether or not the contract is a good/valid one,” said McFarlane. “[…] Mr Daly was engaged on this matter over three months ago and the company has already processed payment for his services.

“Additionally, in July, a team from the company made up of directors and staff met with Mr Daly after his review of the contract. No information from this meeting has ever been presented to the board.

“It is unfathomable to think that Mr Daly has been paid without providing at least a preliminary opinion re this contract with SCG.”

Photo: Martin Daly, SC, is a former Independent Senator, a lover of pan and a columnist of long standing
(Courtesy UWI.sta.edu)

McFarlane criticised SPORTT too over its treatment of the TTCB.

“I have questioned previously communication from SPORTT to the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board in which the TTCB is barred from using any part of its 2018 subvention funds to offset expenses incurred during 2017,” he said. “I have stated that this is quite unfair since the TTCB only received 10 percent of its promised subvention for FY[financial year] 2017. I have, through several earlier email communications, expressed that I thought this restriction should be rescinded.

“To date I am unaware if this has been addressed [and] I ask the board now to review this matter guided by the company’s policy which governs subventions.”

At present, Ramnarine is part of a team which challenged the TTCB’s constitution in the local court. The current cricket constitution allows outgoing executive members to vote alongside clubs at its elections, which means, technically, the TTCB executive starts every election with 12 votes.

At the 2013 TTCB election, Bassarath beat Ramnarine by 28 votes to 20.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) president Azim Bassarath.
(Courtesy TTCB)

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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33 comments

  1. But asking as a lay person, isn’t it possible to recover data even if you wipe your phone? No?

  2. Check that stupid smirk on Gary’s face

  3. Lawyers are the happiest in T&T.

  4. Hannibal Najjar

    Too much for my head at this time.

  5. Did the SPORTT Company and PWC acted illegally and breached the constitutional rights of persons by taking persons’ personal phones without a warrant, an authorized officer or due process? It seems that they did, and that can be a ‘big lawsuit’ which can do a lot of damage to the operation and international image of PWC.

    Any data viewed on the personal cell phones will be another breach, that of privacy (remember the AG wrongfully said that we do not have a right to privacy but was corrected). The sharing, taking or viewing of personal data without the permission of the owner may be a breach of the Interception of Communications Act as well as being contrary to the Data Sharing Bill (2016) and Cybercrime Bill (2017), all be led by the AG, which prohibit the exact issues complained about the persons aggrieved.

    Unlawful detention is another very serious breach which may have been committed by SPORTT and the Police. Which Senior Officer authorized the presence of a Police Officer at the door? What was the nature of the request made to the Senior Officer? This is a very important part of the puzzle which can lead to some interesting information about collusion between politicians and Police Service.

    I am sensing Gestapo-like behavior….

  6. This case is really crying for many and longer comments. But only so much so far:
    1) Whatever one thinks whether the dismisals are right or wrong, it is a no-go that the employees are dimissed without telling them the real reasons.
    2) How can employees be dimissed without presenting the findings of the internal audit?
    3) The internal audit must be made public. Or is there anything to hide in it?
    4) Darry Smith says that the Sports Commission will not be a repeat of the Sportt Company.
    And he adds: Not under his watch. Excuse me Mr. Darry Smith: All what happened now happened under your watch!!!
    5) And Darryl Smith: What about the 400.000 TTD material wasted from HCS warm-up track?? This is and was also under your watch.
    5) Therefore it would probably be very exiting to see the extension of the forensic audit into Sport Ministry and the Sport Ministers actions as well.These findings would be interesting. I can promise you. Believe me, Mr. Darryl Smith.

  7. It continues to amaze me how people find themselves in positions of conflict of interest and continue to ignore the moral obligation of declaring same.
    The recruitment and dismissal framework and processes of SPORTT are clearly seriously flawed, or are being totally ignored by the Company.
    People who seek senior positions or accept appointment as Directors are putting their reputations at serious risk.

  8. We have to start somewhere. Cannot continue with the downward trend as though it is part of the culture.

  9. If they are corrupt and or incompetent, then out you go and in with competent and honest employees. ,

  10. ‘Ye ye de smell ” sings Fela Ransome Kuti..This is standard protocol for Sports company, in whatever incarnation..I remember in 2009 a top official being summarily dismissed..I have forgotten his name..he was from Lavantille..Then a couple years later, 2 officials from the Board declared themselves Executive and wrote monthly pay cheques to the tune of 30K..One of them, his name rhymes/d with money…..This could end up costing taxpayers a lot of money because ex-employees of SPORTT have received handsome awards from the Industrial Court for similar types of breach of contract from 2010.

  11. “Maraj, the former legal officer, was allegedly told that SPORTT had lost all confidence in him for supposedly wiping his phone via remote means. He allegedly removed his Google account information from his phone—while it was in PWC’s possession—as a means of supposedly protecting personal information like family photographs and credit card information. He was fired anyway.”
    hahahahah
    kneegrows not hot.

  12. another bacchanal. One of my greatest concerns over the years has been the failure by successive governments to hold people accountable for all the corrupt practices which has resulted in millions of dollars stolen by persons appointed to oversee the public purse in various capacities. Of greater importance is the firing of people. It appears to me in the government sector people are fired, not according to proper industrial relations procedures anf then the government have to pay them. It defeats the true purpose , since after they have allgedely stolen monies they hire the ‘cabal lawyers ; led by the infamous former AG who have a track record of winning. If all these government agencies have to clean up shop , why not follow procedures. Oh gorm how much more allyuh think citizens could take?. We are a laughing stock.. We have cases pending over a decade still in the court, while the perpetrators living high. All our institutions are broken down. When will this nonsense end

  13. I can’t, nah Lasana, I’ll wait on the court case now

  14. This is what? The eight CEO fired from SPORTT? Well we can be sure the next person who is appointed CEO is a rank opportunist…no self respecting person would offer themselves for that post now…

  15. Never a dull moment. But, unfortunate for our Sports Industry and the young men and women who are pursuing a career in Sports Management.