Embattled President of the Grenada Olympic Committee (GOC), Royston La Hee has not ruled out seeking another 4-year term when elections are held this year to put a new executive in place to run the affairs of the organisation.
THE NEW TODAY pointedly asked La Hee who is under pressure over the unaccounted sum of EC$440, 000.00 donated more than seven years ago by an affiliate of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), whether at 78-years old he would seek another term to add to his unbroken 38-years of service as President of the local body.
“Is 38 years a drawback to election? Given the present circumstances I may (run again for office),” was the reply of the local Olympic boss who was in defiant mood against those trying to bring his reign to an end in the wake of the money issue.
There are reports that five of the nine members who are serving on the Board of Directors have tendered their resignations on the grounds that the matter was kept away from them by their own Executive.
According to La Hee, he expected the organisations which these board members represent to hold their own elections “in due course” to come up with replacement names to service on the GOC Executive.
“We will have an election to replace the Board members,” he said.
Asked if the legitimacy of the board has now been brought into question given the fact that more than half of the members have resigned and this might pose serious problems for holding meetings, La Hee said that the board can still function with a quorum of four.
“The board would like to function with everybody there,” he added.
Asked about the GOC internal elections itself for Executive positions, La Hee said: “We are not quite sure but the election has to be done this year but we’re not quite sure as yet.”
The local Olympic chief was also asked to comment on claims being made by the resigned Board members that they were kept totally in the dark about the funds given by Olympic Solidarity (OS) over 7 years now and that GOC has consistently failed to give an account for it despite several requests by the donor to do so.
He said: “I accepted responsibility for that, I apologised to them and I accepted the responsibility of not informing them so I can’t blame them for resigning.”
The apology was reportedly given at a stormy meeting of the GOC Council on Saturday at which some members were calling for the removal of La Hee and his allies on the Executive and the setting up of an Interim body to run the organisation.
The GOC President also addressed the thorny issue of the EC$440, 000.00 that remains as unaccounted for money as coming from OS that should have been spent on scholarships for athletes and other specific programmes.
According to La Hee, the local body did use the money on some programmes but acknowledged that in some specific programmes “you will find disparities.”
“We were talking to them (Olympic Solidarity) yesterday (Tuesday) about Tennis and we submitted receipts to (them on) Tennis on what they did with the money but they (the Tennis people) haven’t really accounted to us for the money that they spent,” he told THE NEW TODAY.
La Hee said the programmes that Olympic Solidarity are investigating “are specific programmes for which we have to have certain accounting procedures for and we’re bringing it to light now”.
He stated that the OS group is “just not accepting that we spent $28, 000.00 on Tennis”, but “want specific accounting for their programmes in a certain way and if we can’t justify it then they say we short but it doesn’t mean that the money is missing – that is what I want to emphasise.”
There are reports that the IOC-affiliated outfit had sent correspondence to GOC a few months ago indicating that failure to give a proper account of the funds should result in the money having to be repaid by end of December 2020.
When La Hee was asked to comment on reports circulating within some quarters of GOC that the local accounting firm Pannell Kerr Forster (PKF) which handles the auditing of the books had never seen this money from Olympic Solidarity during their normal investigation of the books, he said that PKF can only give an account of what “we get in and what we spend”.
The local Olympic chief stressed that the audit done by PKF of the GOC books “wouldn’t see money missing” and that the specific money received from Olympic Solidarity that the accounting firm will see the funds come into the account and also being accounted for in the account.
“If we receive $200, 000.00 from Olympic Solidarity you will see it come in the account and you will see it being accounted for in the account,” he said.
When told that PKF apparently did not see the OC money in the account, La Hee responded: “If that is your understanding that Pannell never saw the money then that is your understanding and I can’t help you with that.”
The GOC chief was also quizzed on reports circulating that some Board members are claiming that they never saw Pannell making any reference to the EC$440, 000.00 that was collected from OS in any of its audited reports submitted to the organisation.
“If you want to state so in the paper well state so – you probably write the article already,” he said.
La Hee was also asked to comment on allegations coming from within certain quarters of the GOC itself that he was running “a Board within the Board” in the organisation along with close allies like General Secretary Veda Bruno-Victor, 1st Vice-President, Charlie George and Treasurer, Kingsley Ashby.
He said: “I don’t think that there is a Board within the Board. There was a matter which was raised with the board (failure to inform the five resigned members about the unaccounted for money involving OC) and I apologised but I don’t think that there is anything else that the board didn’t know that had happened. I don’t know that there is a Board within the Board”.
La Hee invited the GOC Treasurer who was in his company when the interview was being conducted via telephone to comment on the issues raised but Ashby declined on the grounds that he had no public statement to make.