Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams and general secretary Camara David could be asked to explain a gap in excess of TT$16 million between the quantum of contracts at their headquarters and the budget for the controversial Home of Football in Couva.
The revelation comes as TTFA board member Keith Look Loy, with the support of the High Court, begins his search of football documents in earnest—after a 17-month campaign for transparency in John-Williams’ much-vaunted project.
Although the TTFA constitution states that board members should have full oversight over the entire operation of the body, Look Loy was forced to turn to the High Court to force John-Williams to open the books.
On 20 March, Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh ruled that the TTFA president and/or his general secretary must furnish Look Loy with: the TTFA ledger for the period of November 2015 to present; the contributions of FIFA, TTFA and the government for the Home of Football and the overall budget for same; the names of all bidding companies or parties in connection with the project; the TTFA personnel who selected contractors and sub-contractors for the project; the name of the project manager; the names of contractors and sub-contractors engaged; the quantum, duration and terms of all contractors associated with the project; and the current financial and construction status of the project.
Look Loy told Wired868 that he was startled by what he observed so far.
“When I added up the quantum of what was stated in the contracts, the grand total was TT$3.189 million; but the grand total of the FIFA contribution for the Home of Football was US$2.75 million or TT$19.25 million,” said Look Loy. “So I don’t know how they plan to explain that shortfall; but the gap is over $16 million!”
Neither John-Williams nor David responded to queries from Wired868 about the possible discrepancy—although both recently shared views of the former’s presidency that seemed out of sync with reality.
“We’ve complied with the court order and that’s it; the TTFA has nothing to hide,” John-Williams told the Newsday, after blocking his board member from their financial books for a year and a half. “We’re even willing to open up our books to the media…
“People tend to be critical but they’re not seeing the positive things. It’s just that this president doesn’t talk because it’s not my business to beat my chest. I’m doing my job to the best of my ability.”
And David, John-Williams’ newly appointed general secretary, seemed to question the wisdom of the High Court when he told TTFA attorney Annand Misir: ‘All these documents have already been provided to the TTFA’s General Membership’.
The courts appear to view the work of John-Williams and David differently. In the past four months, Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh, Justice Margaret Y Mohammed and Master of the Court Sherlanne Pierre all ruled against the football body, which continues to rack up legal defeats despite spending more on legal fees than in any other period in its 111 year history.
Justice Boodoosingh described John-Williams’ behaviour as ‘unreasonable and/or unlawful’ while Justice Mohammed said the TTFA President’s testimony was ‘entirely discredited’ and summarised the conduct of his administration as ‘disingenuous’.
Look Loy called David’s assertion ‘absolute rubbish’ while he also criticised FIFA’s hands-off approach to the mushrooming scandal.
“When I hear they are going to inaugurate the facility in April, I have to assume either a final report from the project manager went to FIFA or FIFA is giving money without a final report,” said Look Loy. “Because I have not seen that final report and FIFA is not going to inaugurate a building that is incomplete. FIFA is not blameless in all of this because concern has been forwarded to FIFA for many months now about this project and they have been going merrily around.
“So I don’t know if FIFA was deceived about the fact that people are working without proper documentary procedure or if FIFA has been turning a blind eye to it. Every time [FIFA director] Veron Mosengo-Omba comes [to Trinidad], he gives a green light and thumbs up, as if everything is fine [at the Home for Football] and everything is not fine. There are too many unanswered questions.”
Look Loy claimed that not only have John-Williams and David failed to provide supporting paperwork for a minimum of 85 per cent of the money spent on the Home of Football; but, allegedly according to the general secretary, millions might have been spent on the controversial project in cash payments, without formal contracts.
“I was told by Camara David there are service providers who had workers [on the Home of Football project] on a daily paid basis and they had no contracts,” Look Loy told Wired868, “and they were just paid in cash, which they then paid their workers with—so there was no record. So for that reason, we are now calling for [the TTFA’s] bank records.
“[…] I understand some of the [unaccounted TT$16 million] was used to buy televisions and beds for the rooms and so on; but there must be some paper trail for that too.”
Thus far, leaked emails suggest that John-Williams, David and Misir have ignored repeated requests by Look Loy’s attorney, Matthew Gayle, to make bank records available to the board member.
“My lawyer has written to them asking for the bank records because it falls within the ambit of the financial records being made available to us,” he said. “If they want us to return to the court for that, we will do it.”
Thus far, the TTFA has consistently been ordered to pay legal costs to its challengers due to its ‘unreasonable’ behaviour.
Tomorrow, Look Loy intends to hand over the documentation received from the TTFA thus far to a forensic accountant. And, based on the latter’s judgment, the Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) president and his legal team of Gayle, Dr Emir Crowne and Crystal Paul will decide if the missing data constitutes a material breach of the High Court order.
If John-Williams and David are felt to have kept contracts from Look Loy, the board member will ask the pair to be held in contempt of court.
Look Loy said among the missing documents is the official lease agreement between the TTFA and Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat for the land used to construct the Home of Football.
He was concerned too that the documents he saw suggested that John-Williams alone was making the calls on the multi-million dollar project with no evidence of board approval.
“Clearly what happened is David John-Williams—I have to assume he is the only person involved—acted like a general contractor and was issuing sub contracts to people, which is ridiculous,” said Look Loy. “He [appeared to be] issuing jobs with no contracts and people were working with no paper trail to show how much work they did and what they were paid.
“It is a financial and administrative mess and I would assume even a legal mess.”
Look Loy was concerned too about the recent revelation, during a court matter between the TTFA and members of the National Futsal Team, that John-Williams might have had ‘personal money’ in the bank account of the football body.
“By any legal definition, that is commingling of funds,” he said.
Look Loy called for an emergency board meeting to address the aforementioned concern and has been supported by Northern Football Association (NFA) representative Raeshawn Mars, Central Football Association (CFA) representative Colin Partap, Football Referees Association (TTFRA) president Joseph Taylor and Women’s League of Football (WOLF) representative Sharon Warrick.
However, he needs two more board members to support his petition before an emergency meeting can be triggered.
The remaining eight board members are: John-Williams (president), Ewing Davis (vice-president), Richard Quan Chan (Southern FA), Anthony Moore (Tobago FA), Julia Baptiste (TT Pro League), Bandele Kamau (Eastern FA), Sherwyn Dyer (Eastern Counties Football Union) and Selby Browne (Veteran Footballers Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago).
Look Loy claimed local football is in crisis and urged stakeholders to step forward and show their dissatisfaction with the John-Williams-led administration.
“The TTFA cannot receive money without it being taken by Futsal and the [office] staff cannot be paid and are suffering as a result of John-Williams’ mismanagement and poor judgment in provoking court cases that he cannot win,” said Look Loy. “This has wide ranging implications for football, including for this new start up football league [with the TT Pro League and TTSL clubs]. Soon, we will be getting the [former TTFA general secretary] Sheldon Phillips judgment too.
“Effectively the TTFA is bankrupt; it cannot receive money and if it receives it, then it cannot spend it.”