The Home of Football in Couva has incurred massive debt, $2 million TT of which is owed for goods and services used in the construction of the facility which began in early 2018.
The facility was built during the tenure of former president of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association(TTFA) David John Williams, who had said during a tour in November 2018, that the project had cost US$2.5 million ($17 million TT).
Two years later, with T&T's football now in unchartered waters after the establishment of a FIFA Normalisation Committee headed by Robert Hadad on March 27, some of the creditors have decided to take court action to get monies owed to them, while others have adopted a wait-and-see approach.
During a three-week investigation, Guardian Media obtained documents from several creditors and other insiders familiar with the construction of the Home of Football which showed that at least 31 companies, one state-owned entity, and 11 people are owed a total of $1,990,145.84 TT.
The newly elected TTFA President Willam Wallace and his executive were disbanded by FIFA ten days before the March 27 appointment of Hadad.
Wallace, five months before–in late November 2019–wrestled the reins of leadership from Williams and his team.
Wallace had revealed that a $50 million TT debt hung heavily on the neck of the TTFA when he assumed office.
A decision by FIFA/CONCACAF to work along with an independent auditor, to assess the financial situation of the TTFA, later led to FIFA bringing down the hammer on the Wallace-led administration.
The mission of the Normalisation Committee over the next 24 months was to manage the affairs of the football body drowning in debt and facing the risk of insolvency and illiquidity, according to FIFA.
While the contentious battles of the TTFA continue to rage on in the local and international courts, the controversial Home of Football was retrofitted as a government step-down facility for the coronavirus patients.
Guardian Media obtained a letter that Alescon Readymix Limited's Chief Operations Officer (COO) Nisaar Ali wrote to Wallace on January 20, 2020, entitled, "Outstanding payments due from the TTFA to Alescon Readymix Limited."
Ali told Wallace that attached to the letter was an invoice for the sum of $631.822.27 TT VAT Inclusive being owed by the TTFA for Readymix concrete which Alescon had delivered to assist in the construction of the facility from January 2019 to October 2019.
Ali stated in the letter, "We have made numerous attempts to contact your organization but we are yet to receive any proper response to outstanding debts.
"The TTFA was granted a thirty-day credit period as we recognize the importance of sport in our country and have always been an organization involved with the schools and community clubs in developing and encouraging sport, especially to the younger generation.
"However, from the attached statement the balance due by the TTFA has long surpassed the due date. We trust TTFA will respond urgently to provide a proposed payment plan to settle the account."
Ali, who spoke to Guardian Media more than two weeks ago, said on February 11 he met with Wallace who gave the assurance that every effort will be made to pay his company. Following that meeting, he said, they sent a letter to Wallace stating the principal amount owed to them. But, a month later, Wallace was ousted and the TTFA disbanded.
"I still hoping that we will be paid the outstanding money at some point in time," an upbeat Ali said. "We thought the building was being built in good faith and with the development of football in mind."
Ali said early payments of approximately $130,000 TT were received as the invoices were dealt with by Williams. The majority of the money for materials supplied in 2019, however, remained unpaid.
"What I can also tell you is one of our clients CPML Contractors Limited was also affected since they also did foundation work at the facility," Ali said.
CPML CONTRACTORS' DEBT
The list with the outstanding sums owed to creditors included CPML Contractors Limited. This company is still owed approximately $93,152.65 TT.
Director of CPML Bill Ramrattan said that based on the figure he had in his possession, the actual sum outstanding was $244,623.35 TT. "We were contracted to build a post-tensioned (PT) raft foundation for the players' hotel and the sum the TTFA has was from the original contract and not the final billing," he explained.
Ramrattan later sent a document to Guardian Media showing the total cost for their part of the project–$1.83 million TT, and the monies they were still owed by the TTFA. This letter, he said, was sent to Wallace on January 15, 2020.
TRINRICO STEEL'S DEBT
Trinrico Steel and Wire Products Limited, based in San Fernando, was also on the list of people and companies owed. The company, which is still being owed $153,685 TT, "decided to take the matter to court and we now leave it in our attorney's hands," said Donald Boodoosingh, the marketing manager.
Guardian Media obtained three invoices from Trinrico for outstanding payments in the month of May 2018.
CLASSIC TILES' DEBT
Another company, Cunupia-based Classic Tiles Limited is still awaiting payment of $176,857 TT, according to the TTFA documents.
"We have not been paid to date and we have not been told anything for a long time," said Sharmilla Mahase, the manager of the establishment. Ria Lalla the collections officer for the company emailed Guardian Media late Friday evening to say that the outstanding balance they had on their records was actually $230,857.45 TT.
T&Z MARKETING'S DEBT
T&Z Marketing Limited, also located in Central, and which deals with a wide range of products for home improvement and offices, are still being owed $93,351 TT.
When Guardian Media contacted the company for a comment last week, they requested we send an email. Last Wednesday they returned our call.
"We are still being owed for materials we supplied for the project (construction of Home of Football)," the company representative informed us. "That is what I have been advised to tell you from one of our seniors," she said.
OTHER COMPANIES OWED
Some of the other companies owed substantial amounts rounded to the nearest dollar included:
- Veruza Services Limited $145,917 TT
- Lighting Paradise $76,524 TT
- Coleman Supplies & Services $72,627 TT
- Diamonds General Scaffolding $54,365 TT
- Aleron Limited $47,500 TT
- Transbrokerage Services $38,077 TT
- Unicomer Trinidad Limited $20,154 TT
- Point Lisas Steel $16,682 TT
- Paramount Transport $11,746 TT
Several individuals were also being owed hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In one case, a man was being owed $175,335 TT, while others were being owed sums between $1,500 TT to $29,890 TT.
Meanwhile, The Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) also had a pending claim of $10,565 TT that TTFA needed to settle. A question was sent to Corporate Communications Manager Annabelle Brasnell about the sum owed to T&TEC by TTFA. On May 11, Brasnell replied, "My initial comment regarding customer data does not apply in this situation, and because we do not share information with anybody who is not the account holder, we would be unable to answer the question."
WALLACE: IT'S SURPRISING $2M STILL OWED TO CREDITORS
Wallace, who spoke with Guardian Media early last week, said,
"It was surprising to me that there was still $2 million owed to creditors and that there was still so much to be done on the facility to complete it.
"After taking up office, almost on a daily basis I met with creditors and explained that we will honour the debts, and, as soon as we get going, payment plans would be discussed with them and agreed on.
"Many, if not all of them, left satisfied that there was now some form of engagement because I was told that previously they were being ignored. We have a matter before the court and I would prefer not to speak further on this matter or any other concerning the TTFA."
WILLIAMS: NO COMMENT
Former TTFA president Williams said, "I have no comment at this time. I have not spoken to the media in six months and will speak at an appropriate time."
HADAD: PEOPLE WITH CLAIMS ARE FREE TO CALL ME
Last Wednesday, Guardian Media contacted Hadad to find out if any of the creditors had reached out to him and, if so, what assurances have been given to them. For those who have not reached out, what would he want to say to them?
On Thursday Hadad spoke frankly about the issue via telephone. "I am willing to work with everybody and their claims. But you have to remember this is a process and we have to verify the accuracy and legitimacy of their claims before we can go forward," he explained.
"One has to also understand how it works; we do not have control over TTFA money and we will know more after the CAS court matter on May 20 and, perhaps, be in a better position then. But at this point, we do not have access to the money in the bank account," Hadad said.
Hadad made it clear he wanted to avoid any repeat of what transpired in February this year when former TTFA technical director Kendall Walkes sued the TTFA for $5 million. Walkes through his lawyer took out a garnishee order to freeze the accounts of the TTFA. Walker later requested a $2.5 million settlement that the TTFA is still unable to pay.
Hadad said "Even when we are financially competent we'll have to put certain systems and controls in place for people to be heard. It could well be that for some of the creditors owed larger amounts we'll have to do a payment plan. Many of these creditors have not actually reached out to me except for a lady at Tradewinds Hotel who seems to have a legitimate claim. So they can feel free to call me," Hadad indicated.
FIFA STATUE AND WHY TTFA WAS DISBANDED: Article 8.2 states: "Executive bodies of member associations may under exceptional circumstances be removed from office by the Council in consultation with the relevant confederation and replaced by a normalisation committee for a specific period of time."
SOURCE: T&T Guardian