Just three weeks before Christmas, employees at the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) have been advised by acting CEO Jason Williams to “actively explore alternative employment.”
The advice, sent to staff via email, follows weeks of speculation about the financial health of the State body. Williams confirmed that SPORTT “is in serious financial difficulty” but stopped short of saying whether a complete shutdown is imminent.
He did advise, though, that SPORTT will not extend contracts for any employees and will release some workers while offering month-to-month deals to others.
The Sports Company was established in 2004 as a limited liability special interest company geared towards the management, administration and programming of sport as well as the construction and operational maintenance of sporting facilities throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
It is, essentially, the key implementation agency for the Ministry of Sport and responsible for the promotion, sustainable growth and development of sport in the two-island republic.
SPORTT employed as many as 200 workers over a decade ago although its current staff is believed to number just under 80.
None of Trinidad and Tobago’s five national football and track stadia—the Hasely Crawford, Ato Boldon, Mannie Ramjohn, Larry Gomes and Dwight Yorke Stadiums—is fully functional at present while the Ato Boldon Stadium is the only one of the quintet with lights working, albeit still below international standard.
One employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the release was a depressing confirmation of their worst fears.
“Most of the staff have basically been expecting something like this,” said the SPORTT employee. “The majority of people’s contracts end at the end of 2017 and there was no word on renewals. Then came the whole fiasco with the eight people [who were all fired or suspended] and we know something was up.”
Last month, SPORTT CEO Adam Montserin, facility manager Anthony Blake, internal auditor Jeewan Kowlessar, legal officer Naveen Maraj and project administrator Mellie Price were all fired, after an audit by PWC while procurement supervisor Darryl Stewart, senior manager facilities maintenance Raj Ramtahal and project co-ordinator Travis Watson were told not to return to work for the remainder of their terms.
It is uncertain whether their dismissals had anything to do with the probe, as SPORTT did not reveal any information on the audit or give specific reasons for their forced departures.
Directors Richard McFarlane and Imran Jan were both axed after questioning the behaviour of the Ramnarine-led board while Jason Louis Julien was dismissed as part of the initial purge of the eight executives.
In fact, SPORTT was blighted by instability almost from inception as there were 11 different CEOs in the past decade and four chairmen in just the last two and a half years.
And, during the term of Sport Minister Anil Roberts, chairman Sebastian Paddington, CEO John Mollenthiel and permanent secretary Ashwin Creed, SPORTT became a byword for corruption with over TT$400 million washing through the body in roughly two years through the LifeSport programme alone.
Educator Adolphus Daniell controversially received TT$34 million from SPORTT for a project he never executed.
At present, former WIPA president Dinanath Ramnarine is the SPORTT chairman following Michael Phillips’ resignation in mid-2017 after differences with Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Darryl Smith.
Statement from acting SPORTT CEO Jason Williams:
Recently, many of you may have heard statements in the press and elsewhere that the Company is to be shut down. Management has not received any official notification of any decision to this effect. However, there can be no doubt that the immediate future of SPORTT remains uncertain.
What however is certain is that the Company is in serious financial difficulty. Accordingly, the Company must in the meantime review its operational requirements in order to streamline its affairs, reduce expenses, and create a more efficient cost-effective organisation. This review is currently going under the purview of a committee set up by the Board, together with internal auditors.
Pending the conclusion of the review, the Company is unable to renew any employee contracts for any extended period of time. As a consequence, when an employee contract is due to expire, the Company—based on organisational requirements—will either offer to renew the contract on a month to month basis or not offer a new contract.
Due to the continued uncertainty surrounding SPORTT’s future, the Company must be both fair and transparent, and as a result, must advise its employees to actively explore alternative employment.
Management wishes to sincerely thank all staff for their continued contribution despite these very difficult times.
Should you wish to discuss the matters herein further, please contact the Human Resources Department […] and every effort will be made to provide further clarification and assistance.