“[…] At the next meeting, I expressed my dissatisfaction with [TUCO president Lutalo ‘Bro Resistance’ Masimba] acquiring this large sum of money and asked what would a sponsor think if, when giving TUCO a million dollars, they were not aware that 20% goes to the president. No answer.
“[…] On 19 December 2012, I wrote to the treasurer, who is also the chairman of the finance committee, to furnish me with the names of everybody who benefited from any commissions paid.
“[…] Suffice to say, the general membership never benefitted with knowledge of this arrangement…”
Calypsonian and former TUCO executive member Errol ‘Bally’ Ballantyne shares his issue with the payment of hefty commissions to the body’s executive and its alleged lack of transparency regarding same:
In 2012, I was appointed to the financial committee of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation (TUCO). At the very first meeting, I expressed my desire for transparency in everything we do.
At the time, members were accusing the executive of stealing money the year before. These monies turned out to be above board as they were explained to me as management fees. They ranged from TT$45,000 to TT$2,500. I was satisfied with their explanation and they agreed to call a meeting, at my insistence, to appease the members.
At that meeting, the treasurer, Mr Denis Cox, showed that the greatest sum was paid to the president Mr Lutalo ‘Bro Resistance’ Masimba. The members were also satisfied.
About two months later, at another financial meeting, a balance sheet was distributed among the committee members and among the items was a debt of TT$200,000, which was owed to the president. I asked what was that about and was told that it was commissions.
Commissions of 20% of cash amounts sponsored, 15% of products sponsored and 10% of contra agreements are paid to members who acquire sponsorship. I knew something was wrong but left it there until I gathered more information.
That night I received a call from a member of the committee who was also a general council member, asking me if I was comfortable with the $200,000 that was paid to the president. I told him ‘no’ but I had to check the constitution first. He agreed that we will address it at the next meeting but that signalled to me that not even the General Council knew of this payment.
I checked the constitution where article 13.4 describes his job specs as the chief negotiator for the organisation, for which he is paid a salary of TT$14,400 per month with a TT$1,000 travelling allowance.
Article 13.4: ‘The president […] shall transact all business as pertains to his office and shall be the chief negotiator, initiator and motivating instrument in the advancement of the organisation’.
At the next meeting, I expressed my dissatisfaction with him acquiring this large sum of money and asked what would a sponsor think if, when giving TUCO a million dollars, they were not aware that 20% goes to the president. No answer. Someone interjected that the commission was open to all members.
On 19 December 2012, I wrote to the treasurer, who is also the chairman of the finance committee, to furnish me with the names of everybody who benefited from any commissions paid. I followed up with two emails with the last one being close to Christmas on the following year.
He answered with a taunting ‘Merry Christmas, Bally. Suffice to say, the general membership never benefitted with knowledge of this arrangement.
Not long after that I was removed from the finance committee for trying to find out the truth and put a stop to the madness. But God doh sleep.
In 2017, the Ministry of Community Development Culture and the Arts engaged Ernst and Young to conduct an audit of TUCO for the years 2013 to 2016. I was overjoyed, as to me it meant that the government was going to continue what I started and uncover the truth; and nobody could stop them.
During the time the process was going on, there was a leak in the Guardian Newspapers, showing the president and by extension the organisation in a bad light. A meeting was held, the leak was discussed and the president promised that when the report was completed he will discuss it among the members.
The final report was completed in April 2018.
I acquired a copy through the Freedom of Information act on 20th September 2018. On 9 September 2019, I wrote the organisation telling them that it was over one year since the report was completed and reminding them of the president’s promise to discuss the audit with members, despite his retreat on the spurious grounds that the [leak of the] audit was illegal.
They replied that it can only be discussed if Ernst and Young gave them a copy and claimed that TUCO made several requests for a copy to no avail.
I then offered to get one for them so then we could proceed and disseminate same. In all I wrote five letters to the TUCO executive committee before they agreed to a membership meeting on the 7 March 2020, which was postponed to 14 March 2020.
When I first read the report, the information that shook—but not surprised—me was on page 29. This showed that for those four carnival seasons, the president, general secretary and treasurer amassed a total of TT$1,353,500 in commissions while their salaries for the same four years amounted to $1,426,000. That made a grand total of TT$2,779,500.
When, as general secretary, Mr Masimba was sidelined by then TUCO president Mr Michael ‘Protector’ Legerton for two years or 730 days, Masimba routinely collected his salary for doing absolutely nothing. Yet still he claimed an amount totalling $135,000 in lieu of 450 days vacation leave.
Masimba Publishing turned out to be another cash cow.
At the meeting held at the Queen’s Park Savannah on 14 March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic was in its early stages in Trinidad. The president had the general secretary read some long winded pre-action protocol letter in which it stated said he was [suing over the leak of the] Ernst and Young report.
At no time did he address any of the findings in the report. Instead, they said it was not the final report. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Until he, the general secretary and the treasurer stop hiding from the truth of their misdeeds, found in the Ernst and Young report, they have no business in TUCO.
Editor’s Note: The Ernst and Young report revealed the following commissions were paid to TUCO executives between 2013 and 2016: president Lutalo Masimba (TT$696,940), general secretary Wayne McDonald (TT$437,000), Denis Cox (TT$220,250), public relations officer Steve Pascall (TT$123,900).