President of the Eastern Football Association, Keiron Edwards says he is hoping that the Normalisation Committee-led T&T Football Association (T&TFA) shies away from using a “Big Stick” approach in trying to get the 2020 and 2021 Financial Statements and Independent Auditors Reports approved.
On September 21, Edwards moved a motion to delay the passing of the audited financials with 17 members voting in favour, while there were 14 abstentions with all other items on the agenda, inclusive of the budget being approved by the 31 members who turned up out of the total of 47 at the Annual General Meeting of the TTFA which was held at the Home of Football in Balmain, Couva.
The decision to move to motion impacts the T&TFA’s ability to function as it can only receive subventions from the sport’s world governing body FIFA once the audited financials are approved and this was stated to the members by Robert Hadad, chairman of the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee (NC) which is currently managing the affairs of the organisation.
Back then Edwards raised some concerns about the validity of the audited statement when Aegis Business Solutions, Chartered Accountants, the auditors for the embattled football association stated: “We were unable to determine whether any adjustments might have been found necessary in respect of recorded and unrecorded plant and equipment. This was because assets were not tagged and there was no proper record keeping of the fixed asset register, which did not include proper descriptions of assets.”
Among the concerns raised by Edwards was that the figure stated for fixed assets on the Statement of Financial Position of the Audited Financial Statements was incorrect.
A day earlier, a letter responding to the concerns of Edwards was sent out by the TTFA but it did not convince members during the meeting.
Edwards speaking after the AGM said, “The AGM went well, we would have passed most of the items. We passed the budget, we passed most of the items. The audited statements were postponed for 17 days, we must have some consultation with the normalisation committee about it and we would have that in the next 17 days, in an attempt to pass it at an EGM.
“These issues were there, it’s just a time for us to have further discussions on it and we will come up with some solutions and be able to pass the audited statements where persons will be comfortable.
And, on Monday, September 26, in a letter to TTFA Acting General Secretary, Amiel Mohammed, Edwards again stated his concerns on behalf of the membership.
Edwards in his letter pointed out that the TTFA’s auditors AEGIS Business Solutions qualified the audit report on the grounds of uncertainty. As such, they cannot determine the value of TTFA’s fixed assets.
“Therefore, we do not know if the amount omitted or overstated was 5%, 10% or 20%. Materiality can only be applied in a situation when you are aware of the quantum of the issues presented and it can be quantified and applied. But in the case of T&TFA, we do not know the amounts omitted or overstated so we do not know if it’s material or not.
The fact that the financial statements of the TTFA were qualified on the grounds of uncertainty by the External Auditors means that the amounts are material. If it were immaterial the auditors would have ignored it.
In conclusion, Edwards stated, “Ultimately, there are two members of the Normalization Committee that are qualified Accountants namely, Nigel Romano and Trevor Nicholas Gomez and in addition, they represent FIFA, as such, they should be held to a higher standard of accountability and transparency. “The Normalization Committee should not ask the members of the TTFA to approve financial statements that are overshadowed by doubt, uncertainty, and irregularities.
“As such, please correct these issues before it is presented to the members of the association for approval.
But in response, the T&TFA through Mohammed issued a response that informed its members to review information regarding the audited financial statements of the T&TFA for the years ended 31 December 2020, and 2021 in which they have tried to answer the concerns raised by Edwards, and also issued another letter informing of the Extraordinary General Meeting on Saturday, October 8 at the Home of Football, from 10 am.
However, contacted for comment Edwards said that the T&TFA send back the same statements that the membership didn’t approve the first time around.
“We have already spoken on these documents and are hoping that a meeting is held before the Extraordinary General Meeting is held so that we can go over the issues in person. They have to remember that the membership of the T&TFA is the deciding body on any concerns and concerns raised by the membership should and must be taken into consideration, and discussed before we move forward.”
“So I’m currently awaiting feedback on a suggested meeting to be held between us the membership and T&TFA.
“We already had a discussion with two members of the Normalization Committee and have explained to them our concerns and we were hoping for a more organised meeting to follow, but we are seeing that the T&TFA has issued a release regarding the EGM on Saturday, October 8 for 10 am to have the 2020 and 2021 statements approved.
“But we are hoping that this is not a “Big Stick” approach being used by the governing body, and they are serious just as us about getting these issues resolved by having the meeting before the EGM, with its membership.”
SSFL president : Court ruling on TTFA debt repayment a wake-up call.
By Jonathan Ramnanansingh (T&T Newsday).
SECONDARY Schools Football League (SSFL) president Merere Gonzales believes the High Court’s decision to approve the TT Football Association’s (TTFA) repayment proposal is a progressive step, but should also serve as a “wake-up call” to the sport’s administrators and stakeholders.
Gonzales, a TTFA executive member, expressed relief when, on Wednesday, Justice Devindra Rampersad signed off and approved the association’s repayment proposal filed by Maria Daniel, the trustee who acted on behalf of the TTFA normalisation committee.
This decision will allow the TTFA to begin dispensing payments to its creditors, some of whom, have been owed for more than a decade.
“I’m extremely gratified by the court’s ruling because it’s a step in the right direction since it’s in the best interest of TT football. Our football is at a stage where it needs further advancement, promotion, development and all that is necessary to become very progressive,” he said.
Gonzales credited Daniel and the normalisation committee for helping the TTFA reach this critical juncture.
He hopes this experience, which began in March 2020 when FIFA removed the then president (William Wallace) and his executive for shoddy financial management, serves as an eye-opener to administrators.
“We can only benefit from a decision like this taking into consideration that very grave errors, financial improprieties and lack of accounting were made. If we don’t learn from our history then we are doomed. I don’t think we would want to return to such a point.
“We have to ensure all TTFA stakeholders do what is necessary so their books and finances are in order, which will put us in good stead so, the annual FIFA subvention would be comfortably provided. We need to be transparent and accountable. It’s a massive wake-up call,” he added.
Gonzales said that the TTFA, and all other local sporting bodies, need to understand the importance of proper financing, budgeting and utilising their assets in a very prudent way.
This, he said, would aid the beneficiaries, mainly players, to achieve their goals and aspirations through the competent planning of administrators, inclusive of proper financial audited reports and statements.
Normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad shared similar sentiments.
Commenting on the landmark approval, Hadad said, “I am grateful. We look forward to finally paying the debts that have crippled the Association for many years.
“This is another milestone along the path to fully remediating football and we will continue to work on completing this process. I would like to thank the trustee and her legal team and the TTFA staff for their efforts in helping us to reach this significant milestone.”
This comes after the TTFA notified the supervisor of insolvency, on November 8, 2021, of its intent to make a proposal under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (2007) of TT, which would enable the restructuring of the TTFA using a fair, transparent and acceptable process to address the association’s long-standing debt.
The process, which was managed by licensed independent trustee Daniel, allowed the TTFA to manage its operations and provide a stay from all legal proceedings and creditor actions for a period of up to six months.
On May 5, 2022, Daniel met with creditors at the Home of Football, Couva, under the chairmanship of the supervisor of insolvency, where she outlined the process that she and her team undertook to validate creditor claims and work with the normalisation committee to develop the proposal.
At this meeting, the proposal which would be funded via an interest-free US$3.5 million financial instrument, was approved unanimously by the creditors whereby validated creditors owed up to TT$200,000 will be paid in full and balances above that will be pro-rated.
The trustee sought to have the proposal approved by the High Court on September 7.
However, Justice Rampersad sought a short adjournment to consider filings/appeals made by former FIFA vice president Jack Warner, former TT men’s coach Terry Fenwick and sports marketer Peter Miller.
At a hearing on Monday, attorneys Bronock Reid and Kiev Chesney, representing Fenwick and Miller respectively, agreed to the trustee’s proposal to have the invalidated portions of their claims set aside and placed in a trust, pending the final determination of their appeal hearings.
The funds that will be set aside will be allocated from the US$3.5 million financial instrument.
And, on Wednesday, at the substantive hearing before Justice Rampersad, Warner, through his attorney Rekha Ramjit, withdrew their matters and the proposal was approved.
The trustee will now work with the normalisation committee and the proposal’s financiers to prepare the payments to the validated creditors under the guidelines of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the terms approved by the creditors.
A TTFA statement on Wednesday night said the judge’s decision “granted a new lease on life” for the TTFA.
In March 2020, the FIFA Council suspended the TTFA with immediate effect due to grave violations of the FIFA Statutes. The decision came after a FIFA/Concacaf fact-finding mission to TT to assess, together with an independent auditor, the financial situation of TTFA.
This found extremely low overall financial management methods, combined with massive debt, have resulted in the TTFA facing a very real risk of insolvency and illiquidity.
FIFA then appointed a normalisation committee, headed by Hadad, to run the TTFA'S daily affairs, establish an implementable debt repayment plan and to review and amend the TTFA Statutes (and other regulations where necessary) and to ensure their compliance with the FIFA Statutes and requirements.