Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace has accused the administration of his predecessor, David John-Williams, of failing to account for millions of dollars received from Fifa and improperly deducted from office staff.
Wallace’s claims were part of a 50-minute long press conference at the Queen’s Park Oval in St Clair, in which he revealed issues inherited from the controversial former football president and also pointed to his perceived accomplishments after 100 days at the job.
“I am not here to cast aspersions on anyone’s character. I am not here to blame anyone for anything. I am not here to say anyone did anything. All I am saying to you, these are the facts as discovered.”
Among several startling allegations was the claim that the John-Williams-led administration withheld TT$4 million dollars due to the National Insurance Board (NIB) and Ministry of Finance for NIS, PAYE and health surcharge for employees.
“We’ve discovered that NIS and PAYE, health surcharge; the last time that was paid to the relevant authorities was November of 2017,” said Wallace. “We have since accumulated a debt of $4 million for NIS, health surcharge, PAYE. Now, importantly, this money was reflected as being taken out of the salaries of the employees.
“So $4 million taken out from the salaries of employees and that $4 million has not been paid to the relevant authorities.”
Wallace said he welcomes an investigation into the missing money and hopes to speak to the ‘relevant authorities’.
“There are laws in Trinidad and Tobago that govern that,” he said. “I hope that whoever is supposed to deal with this is guided by that. We will provide information to the relevant authorities.”
Wired868 reached out to John-Williams for comment via a phone call, text message, email and whats app. He did not respond on any of the aforementioned platforms.
John-Williams’ former general secretary, Camara David, also did not comment when asked to explain the discrepancy.
John-Williams is a businessman and contractor and the chairman of Pro League club, W Connection. David is the current general secretary of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU).
David’s predecessor, Justin Latapy-George, left the TTFA in January 2019. He admitted that he knew the football body was behind on its payments for employees but claimed to be shocked by the figure.
“Like in any organisation, these are statutory deductions that are withheld from the remuneration of employees and is to be remitted to the government,” said Latapy-George, who now works as head of sport development at Sportt. “I knew we were behind but I did not know the quantum… The FA is set up with a finance manager and, although the [office] is run by the general secretary, it is really the responsibility of [finance officer] Tyril Patrick.”
Patrick declined comment on his possible role in the alleged misuse of employee money meant for the state. The finance manager, who was hired by John-Williams, refused to attend TTFA AGMs in 2018 or 2019 to answer the membership’s questions on the football body’s financial health—despite allegedly being ordered to do so by Latapy-George—on the grounds that he was due to resign and had been excused by the then football president.
Remarkably, two years later, Patrick continues to serve as the football body’s finance manager under Wallace, even as the current president pointed to a slew of other financial discrepancies, such as 29 bounced cheques issued by the John-Williams-led TTFA including four to League of Champions clubs, Defence Force, Guaya United, Youth Stars United and Moruga FC.
“Interestingly, the FA submitted to Fifa a proposal for the T-league […] and monies were allocated for that project,” said the TTFA president. “TT$990,000 was given to the FA for that project and from that money the clubs were given TT$25,600. So TT$203,200 was spent on the League of Champions, money given to clubs. That left us with TT$786,800—we had a surplus. And yet, cheques bounced.”
However, Wallace suggested that Patrick was not an accomplice to wrongdoing but rather a victim of the TTFA’s lack of internal financial structure.
“[Patrick] said he was acting on instructions when I asked him why he issued the bounced cheques,” said Wallace. “[…] What we are doing now, based on the evaluation and audits we have done, is putting systems in place and reporting structure, etc.
“[…] He is still working with us but there are systems in place to make sure he is governed by proper policy.”
The TTFA’s new internal finance structure, which would presumably transform Patrick into a model accountant, is overseen by accountant Robert Reis and Kendall Tull at present. Both have extensive financial management and audit experience.
Wallace claimed that the work of the pair satisfied a recent delegation of Fifa and Concacaf officials and should see a thawing of relationship between the governing football bodies and the twin island republic.
Fifa, according to current TTFA general secretary Ramesh Ramdhan, had delayed paying its annual subvention due to concerns regarding the financial state of the local football body.
“Fifa were very happy with the report that was generated […] through our finance committee [of] Robert Reis and Kendall Tull,” said Wallace, who said the pair have addressed several weaknesses within the TTFA’s set-up. “We found an absence of any kind of internal structure within the FA; there were no internal financial controls.
“[…] Fifa were very happy [with the report by Reis and Tull] and said we did half of their job for them.”
Wallace reiterated that John-Williams gave the TTFA’s debt at TT$16 million in 2016. However, since then, the current president said the debt climbed to ‘TT$50 million and rising’.
The TTFA’s new debts include: TT$184,000 to match agents, TT$1.3 million to technical staff members and over TT$1 million in match fees to players. Ironically, as Wallace noted, John-Williams boasted about raising over TT$6 million from overseas matches while he appeared to have not been paying his bills.
Wallace also spoke at length about the state of the Home of Football and the design and insurance issues that continue to make it unsafe for use.
“There was absolutely no fire clearance for the hotel. For you to get fire clearance you must be able to provide the following and all of these things are missing: fire detection and alarm system, no emergency voice communication system, no emergency lighting, no portable fire extinguishers, no firehose reel system, no dedicated water supply (we are borrowing water from the SPORTT Company), no fire pump…
“Now this hotel was opened and we had four youth teams and our national senior team stay in this hotel […] and all of this was missing.”
(Wired868 will provide more details on the Home of Football in a separate report tomorrow.)
Wallace also claimed to have sponsors in place for the TTFA FA Trophy Cup and a TTFA-run three-tiered domestic competition, which fellows a similar format to the previously proposed T-League and will absorb the Pro League and TT Super League competitions. However, he said he will reveal the names of those companies at a separate press launch.
The new local league, he said, will start in mid-June and will offer prize money.
He also claimed that the TTFA has activated 10 of its 11 statutory committees—only two were active at the end of John-Williams’ term in office—and boasted about having over 20 medical professionals and doctors on the body’s medical committee.
He revealed too that the TTFA reached an out of court settlement with former journalist Selwyn Melville over the Soca Warriors trademark and hopes to soon reach an agreement with former technical director Kendall Walkes as well.
At present, the TTFA’s bank accounts are still frozen due to a garnishee order executed by Walkes for non-payment.
Wallace said that Lawrence’s contract also represents part of the local body’s 50 million debt, which he hopes to clear within the next three years. However, he did not offer an update on discussions with the former Warriors head coach.
The salaries of the TTFA’s current technical staffs was given at TT$4.3 million per year in a recent board meeting. However, Wallace said that the football body can meet most of its operating costs with just its Fifa Forward money of US$1.2 million per year with ‘a deficit of just under TT$200,000’.
Through One Concacaf funding of US$150,000 per year and private sponsorship, he hopes to raise the additional revenue.
It is uncertain whether the operating costs mentioned included overseas trips and camps for national teams; and, up to the time of publication, Wallace could not be reached for clarification.
The TTFA president insisted, though, that, despite the setbacks, local football is already in a better condition than when he took office.
“We are doing our best in the circumstances,” he said. “Things are going to get so much better—and faster than anyone thinks.”