Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams split FIFA funding for the Home of Football project between 15 companies—according to information he sent to Board members—in a move that allowed the administrator to avoid putting contracts up for tender.
Last week, TTFA Board member Keith Look Loy formally threatened to report John-Williams to the police if he failed to provide relevant information about the controversial US$2.25 million project at tomorrow’s Extraordinary General Meeting.
After seven months of questioning by the local football membership, John-Williams finally responded with paperwork related to the project on Sunday. John-Williams’ release contained 29 pages but the crux of his defence was two email exchanges between the president and FIFA Member Associations director Véron Mosengo-Omba and Development Programmes manager Solomon Mudege.
Mosengo-Omba and Mudege agreed, with caveats, that John-Williams’ proposed method for running the Home of Football project did not violate FIFA guidelines. Although it remains unclear—and unlikely—whether the TTFA Board was involved at all in the deliberations between its chairman and the FIFA administrators.
“Can you advise if there is a requirement for TTFA to engage in public advertisement and public tendering?” John-Williams asked Mosengo-Omba on 25 July 2017. “Or in the interest of expedition, we can go to the market in a selective tendering exercise?
“Secondly, apart from accelerating the project, we are of the view that procuring some [sic] the high cost structural material by TTFA and providing same to the selected contractor may bring some cost savings through avoidance of contractor mark-ups on materials purchased.
“Will this strategy be acceptable to FIFA and not compromise any of its governance requirements?”
Did the TTFA Board agree to this haste? And is John-Williams, a contractor by trade, referring to the royal “we” when he suggested that the local football body purchase its own high cost material?
John-Williams was so delighted with Mosengo-Omba’s response that he posted the latter’s letter and then reposted excerpts from it, in italics, to Board members.
“If the TTFA has the necessary expertise and is in agreement with the selected contractor,” replied Mosengo-Omba, “then the TTFA may purchase any materials that are required in the construction project.
“Once again, we urge the TTFA to be mindful of its obligations and ensure that there are at least three quotations for any material purchase which are for an amount of US$50,000 or greater…”
However, it is worth noting that the FIFA official—in the opening of his reply—made it clear that the regulations of the world governing body were not meant to nullify acceptable practices in Trinidad.
“We would like to confirm that it is acceptable for the TTFA to have a selective tendering process,” Mosengo-Omba began, “if this is also in accordance with how sport institutions may conduct their tender procedures in Trinidad and Tobago…”
And there was another stipulation.
“At least three independent companies should be involved in your selective tendering process,” said the FIFA official, “and TTFA should avoid any situation giving rise to a conflict of interest. This is in line with Article Eight—‘Obligations of the member associations and the confederations’—of the FIFA Forward regulations.”
John-Williams informed members that he then invited eight companies to bid for the project and received quotations from Monar Industrial Services Caribbean Ltd, Pace Construction Limited, Trinsulated Caribbean Ltd, Structural & Mechanical Agencies Ltd, Home Solution Ltd and RMSL Ltd.
Shanghai General Construction Ltd and China Jiangsu did not submit bids.
Pace Construction, according to John-Williams’ statement, “was recommended for the contract under initial evaluation.”
But recommended by whom? And what was the contract offered? And what were the bids received?
John-Williams offered none of that information but instead sought to assure members that they were in good hands.
“Given the President’s know-how in the construction business having over 39 years of experience,” wrote John-Williams, as he referred to himself in the third person, “the Association is in the fortunate position to have the necessary in-house expertise to collaborate with project manager and make educated decisions on the construction activity.”
How can TTFA members be sure that there was no conflict of interest when the football president also works in the construction business, apparently purchased “the high cost structural material” for the multi-million project himself, and was—according to Board members—operating without local supervision or oversight?
By 13 February 2018, John-Williams appeared to have chanced across a new strategy after a discussion with another FIFA official, Mudege.
“As discussed and agreed, the TTFA will be guided by the regulations governing procurement of services under the FIFA Forward Program,” wrote the TTFA president.
John-Williams then quoted to Mudege the FIFA regulation that caught his attention: “All contracts over US$50,000 but below US$300,000, three quotes must be solicited and received for the works prior to an award.
“Any contract for over US$300,000 must be subjected to a tender process. All contracts under US$50,000 could be awarded to a single contractor or supplier.”
Mudege gave the green light.
“Please proceed as outlined in your letter—the TTFA’s procurement plans are in line with the FIFA Forward regulations,” replied Mudege. “Please send us any quotes, tender documents and final invoices as these are required for further payments according to your Statement of Approval.”
So, even as TTFA members urged John-Williams to reveal the tendering process used to hand out contracts on the Home of Football project, the president had found a way to not only avoid tenders altogether, but also to handpick companies without requiring quotations from multiple contractors.
And in an apparent effort to keep each parcel of work below US$50,000, Pace were out and 15 companies were hired instead.
According to John-Williams’ weekend letter, eight companies were given contracts: Geotechnical Engineering Consultancy Services, Aleron Limited, CPML Contractors Limited, Quintessential Design Solutions, Kamal Phulsingh, Deon George Welding and Fabrication, Clophas Medina Limited, AMA Transport and Contract Services Limited.
And another seven companies were hired as “major suppliers”: ECOTEC EPS Construction Technologies, Transbrokerage Services Ltd, Ready Mix (West Indies) Trinidad Ltd, Trinrico Steel and Wire Products Ltd, Ramlagan General Hardware, Point Lisas Steel Products Ltd and Alsecon Ready Mix.
“Upon further evaluation of the project’s cost with the project manager [Rossini Castro],” John-Williams informed TTFA Board members this weekend, “it was found that if the construction works be [sic] undertaken on the project is given out in several different packages […] to different companies it will result in savings for the TTFA…”
John-Williams appeared to believe he found a scenario that defied economies of scale, in which managing 15 companies would be easier and more cost effective than liaising with one.
Notably though, despite the TTFA membership’s repeated requests, John-Williams did not produce the contracts used to hire any of the 15 companies or show the paperwork used to hire Pace in the first place, invoices for sums spent thus far—including for the high cost material purchased under his direct supervision—or prove that any of his schemes saved the football body money.
Look Loy described John-Williams’ report as “window dressing” and “an attempt to confuse and distract members.” He insisted instead that he wanted a report from Castro, the project manager, with “concrete details on progress toward project completion […] and authorised payment to any contractor(s) by the Association.”
He stressed too that John-Williams should provide members with “budgets for works being conducted in Couva and the financial status of each.”
“The President must produce the information/documentation requested […] or face consequences,” wrote Look Loy, yesterday morning. “An invitation to State investigatory agencies (Fraud Squad and FIU), as well as a resort to FIFA, to come in and examine TTFA finances remain real options if he fails to do so.”
It is uncertain what the response from the majority of the TTFA’s membership will be at tomorrow’s EGM. And John-Williams’ critics are likely to come under attack tonight by I95.5FM reporter Andre Baptiste, who promised a tell-all in a two hour special between 7pm and 9pm.
I95.5FM is also a beneficiary of a mysterious contract from the TTFA president, which covered the cost of Baptiste’s travel and accommodation for international football matches over most of the past two years.
John-Williams’ listed the TTFA’s creditors when he took office, although he did not say how much of their individual debts had been paid off.
Notably, the sixth highest name on the list is former TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee’s son, Kareem Tim Kee, who was supposedly owed just over one million dollars for graphic work done by his company, LRJ Investments.
Only Russell Latapy, Anton Corneal, Graphix Advantage, PTSC and Evan Pellerud were owed more, although Pellerud has already been paid—due to a FIFA intervention—while Graphix won a legal decision against the football body in the High Court.
Presumably, more will be said about Kareem on I95.5FM, in what might be an uncomfortable evening for his father. Tim Kee is believed to be keen on challenging John-Williams to reclaim the football presidency.