Sport Minister Brent Sancho responded to criticism by Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president Raymond Tim Kee by blasting the management of the football body as well as Tim Kee’s integrity and competence.
Since my appointment as Minister of Sport (in February 2015), I have been called on time after time to respond to criticism levelled at me by TTFA President Raymond Tim Kee.
In most instances, my responses have been off the cuff statements in response to questions from journalists.
However, I have decided now that it is time to make my position clear, once and for all, and not just correct the misinformation put into the press by Mr Tim Kee, but also ask a few questions of my own.
“The TTFF is the worst-run sporting organisation in Trinidad and Tobago, they flout all rules and procedures. They totally disregard all checks and balances that are here at the Ministry of Sport and the Sport Company. Checks and balances are very important for transparency, accountability and making sure we get value for money. This is taxpayers’ money we are dealing with.”
These are not my words, they’re the words of Minister of Sport Anil Roberts in 2011.
Yet here we are in 2015 and the same rings true. Yet I am accused of bullying Mr Tim Kee.
Mr Tim Kee was an important part of the TTFF administration which was controlled by Jack Warner, the master puppeteer. As a vice-president and, at one point, chairman of TTFF’s finance committee, it is impossible to believe that Mr Tim Kee’s curiosity would not have been aroused by huge transactions entering and departing TTFF accounts under the orders of Mr Warner.
In one such instance in 2008, Mr Tim Kee was copied into an email conversation concerning the distribution of a US$500,000 cheque. This cheque was converted to TT dollars and distributed into three accounts, including two TTFF accounts.
Within 24 hours of these transactions, Mr Warner advised his secretary, “do take note of the amounts which went into the LOC Account as well as the T&TFF’s account both of which must be repaid.” Mr Tim Kee was copied into this conversation.
Such a large transaction should have caused concern, not only because it was originally in US dollars, not only that it was layered into three different accounts, but that Warner was instructing that the money must be repaid.
For what innocent reason would such a transaction occur?
Mr Tim Kee, even as recently as yesterday at an extraordinary general meeting of TTFA, stated that he had no knowledge of any suspect transactions made by Warner.
I am not an investigator. I am not an auditor. There may possibly be a perfectly innocent reason for this transaction.
But because I am not sure, three weeks ago I forwarded this to lawyers in the USA who will now investigate the transaction further.
Our very own FIU laws state that mere knowledge of such a suspicious transaction, if failed to report to the FIU, can result in a fine of TT$3 million AND imprisonment of up to 7 years.
From 2007 to 2009, over TT$17.7 million was paid to Warner controlled accounts from TTFF’s Long Circular Mall Republic Bank account alone, yet Mr Tim Kee, the current PNM Treasurer, was apparently completely oblivious.
And now I have to ask: Is Jack back? Is Mr Tim Kee the new reincarnation of Jack Warner?
Since my tenure as Minister of Sport began in February, I have frequently requested sight of TTFA accounts, which is a stipulation of the cabinet note so often referred to.
I did not insert this condition, but I believe I have a duty to ensure that this condition is met. Still, without sight of the accounts and in the face of several broken TTFA promises, I have continued to fund our National Teams.
Yet everything that goes wrong appears to be my fault. But the truth is that TTFA is poorly run.
Look at the comedy of errors, much of which has been laid at the feet of my Ministry: The visa-debacle, the frantic changes in players, the decision to pay match fees at Pan Am without any agreement from TTOC.
And before that, the Argentina embarrassment, the missing $400,000, the Akeem Adams T-shirt scandal, the players’ Jamaican impasse.
Yet none of these instances were the fault of Mr Tim Kee?
Yet through all of this, our National teams have persevered so that today, we stand proud of our team’s performances at both the Gold Cup and Pan Am.
We now face a period where everything that TTFA say much be examined closely.
Mr Tim Kee’s press release said: “By written communication… the Ministry was alerted to funds available to TTFA from CONCACAF.”
This is true. What Mr Tim Kee doesn’t admit to is that this information was given AFTER the Ministry had paid the air fare for the Gold Cup and AFTER the Ministry had made several direct enquiries.
Mr Tim Kee doesn’t mention that when, on the 25th of June, a TTFA official was asked: “Is it that CONCACAF will take care of internal flights and accommodation during the tournament, but TTFA have to cover travel to and from the tournament?”
The official replied: “That is correct.”
Or that on 28th June, that same TTFA official told PS (Gillian) MacIntyre that US$100,000 would be received from CONCACAF at end of July and was to assist with Gold Cup travel.
Meanwhile I received confirmation from CONCACAF that the funds had already been despatched. Yet still, TTFA continued to request funding from the Ministry, including a request to pay for laundry.
To date, I have paid match fees for Panama, Curacao and Jordan. I have just received a request for US$157,500 match fees for the Gold Cup group stage and US$70,000 for the quarter finals.
So which match fees does the US$33,000 on the TTFA pie chart relate to?
I have gone on record as a former player stating that players deserve the right to earn as much money as possible. However, I do question the right of TTFA to promise match fees and stipends to players that they simply cannot afford to pay.
Watch every word that Tim Kee speaks.
He says TTFA were successful in sourcing alternative funding. Were they?
Apparently, their alternative source of funding is the prize money earned when the players qualified for the Gold Cup.
How can Tim Kee lay claim to sourcing that money? He should be thanking his players for saving his skin. But Mr Tim Kee likes to take the credit rather than accept responsibility.
He says TTFA have reduced debts by $23 million. Well, then show us, Mr Tim Kee.
To my knowledge, $18 million of that debt was to the (2006 World Cup) “SocaWarriors” and was wiped off by the Government.
But, of course, Mr Tim Kee would never admit that.
The rest was paid with FIFA grants supposed to be used for grass roots development.
So, show us the books Mr Tim Kee. Show us where you have actually generated income and paid off your debts.
The truth is that Mr Tim Kee cannot attract any support from corporate T&T aside from some jerseys, bottles of water and Gatorade. Pro League clubs put him to shame. And with such a tiny amount of turnover, the PNM Treasurer still can’t account for his spending or manage to balance his books.
Mr Tim Kee has managed to keep himself in place until November in the hope that the Government changes in September and he will be safe.
Well, Mr Tim Kee, I say to you that with people like you leading the PNM, they will be lucky to retain their deposits. And come (the TTFA elections in) November we will, at last, get to see a truly responsible TTFA who are willing to be transparent and work alongside the Ministry of Sport.
Has there ever been a sporting organisation behave so disrespectfully towards its main sponsor?
And perhaps that explains why Mr Tim Kee cannot attract a dollar in sponsorship to TTFA.