The New Today
Editorials

Financial irregularities at GOC!!!

THE NEW TODAY is calling for the police to be summoned to look into what appears to be massive financial wrongdoing with funds given to the Grenada Olympic Committee (GOC) by an arm of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) known as Olympic Solidarity (OS) for the development of sports in the tri-island state.

There is a quite damning report that was compiled by the Finance Committee of GOC that pointed clear in the direction of fraud being committed within the local organisation.

If there is any doubt, here are some of the findings of the committee for the attention of the board of Directors and the General body of GOC:-

Under the heading, “Excessive Cash Transactions”, the report said: “We share the recommendation of the IOC in its letter of November 27, 2020, when they “asked” the GOC “to limit cash payments to a bare minimum”. This is because during the period under inquisition, the GOC withdrew not less than $91,519.00 (Ninety One Thousand, Five Hundred and Nineteen Dollars) as cash expenses.

“We wish to point out that cheques were written, principally in the name of two staff members of the GOC, who, as we were made to understand, simply delivered the cash withdrawn to the Secretary General upon their return from the bank.

“It is also worth to point out that of all the cash cheques written during the period under review, 52.38% of the cheques were written in the sum of $5,000.00! This is at the heart of the current IOC demand because once cash withdrawal is made, it loses audit trail unless there is a sophisticated petty cash system in place to capture the disbursement particulars”.

The report also touched on the issue of “Falsification of documentary evidence and inflated invoicing for the IOC Auditor”

It said: “(a). In previous reports sent to the IOC auditors the GOC General Secretary provided documentary evidence (Invoices etc.) to support monies spent particularly for the Holiday Recreational Program. In the regard, A D’s Sport Shop Invoice #3349 for $9,832 was submitted to the IOC in support of the purchase of equipment (cricket balls and bats, tennis rackets etc.)

However, in the report to the IOC dated March 19, 2021 the GOC eventually admitted to only spending $5000.

(b). We note with grave concern that the Holiday Recreation Program between the periods 2013-2015 showed the highest instances of cash expenses that the GOC was “unable to justifiy.” This was because these transactions being cash intensive with no evidence on Bank statement were in contravention of the IOC financial guidelines.

Our inquiry revealed that the 2013-2015 Holiday Recreation Program was managed solely by Madam General Secretary. Whereas the 2016 Holiday Recreation Program where we found no discrepancies was managed by the GOC office staff.

(a). Notable examples of inflated invoicing to the IOC auditors are as follows:

*Abriel Patrick Inv. # 178 was said to be submitted by the GOC for refreshments in the amount of $13,584.45, the GOC later admitted in the same report to the IOC dated March 19, 2021, of only spending $1,630.14.

*A document was submitted to the GOC FC with the names of 40 coaches’ signatures for $1,000 each (total $40,000). This document had no heading or authorising signature; the document was tendered as evidence of payment on the Holiday Recreation Program.

*The GOC FC interviewed a sample of the coaches mentioned on the document all of whom denied ever being contracted by the GOC to participate in the program much less being paid the amount indicated on the document”.

Anyone reading the above cannot help but conclude that the police should be called in to investigate persons within GOC for fraud.

This behaviour reminds one of a similar pattern within the Grenada National Lottery Authority over 20 years ago when the said Veda Bruno-Victor was a member of the Board of Directors.

The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) was able to lay its hands on cheques involving the said Veda Bruno-Victor in which she was giving them to particular staff members to cash at the local commercial banks and bring back the money directly to her.

The information then in the public domain was that some of the cash went directly to the then Minister of Sports, Adrian “Spaceman” Thomas, who was the elected Member of Parliament for St. Patrick East.

Just over 15 years later, the same practice is seen at work within the local Olympic Committee and the only Board member whose name is associated with this kind of dealing is the said Veda Bruno-Victor.

THE NEW TODAY finds it quite mind boggling that the likes of GOC President, Royston LaHee and retired banker Kingsley Ashby would be part of an organisation where this kind of activity that is simple not transparent, is allowed to become the norm of the day.

This report from the Finance Committee of GOC speaks directly at “Falsification of documentary evidence and inflated invoicing” which in our view speaks of the possibility of a criminal offence being committed.

The local law is quite clear that if an individual engages in under-invoicing to the Customs Department, he is subjected to a charge and hefty fine from the Comptroller of Customs and possible court action.

There is need for house sweeping and housing cleaning in the body and for the total removal and rejection of the old guards in the upcoming election to breed new life and integrity and decency into the organisation.

THE NEW TODAY is very doubtful that the powers-that-be in control of Grenada would see it fit to ask the police or the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to investigate what seems to be a case of fraud taking place within the local Olympic Committee.

Veda Bruno-Victor is well known to be associated with the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and might be considered as one of the untouchables in the country.

This veteran sports administrator served as a Permanent Secretary in several government ministries and is fully aware of the job and of the financial rules in the service and the role played by the Director of Audit as the watchdog against impropriety.