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.
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.
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.
“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.
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?
“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.”
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.