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Pressure to resign

Royston LaHee – has been sitting in the President Chair for the past 38 years

Pressure is mounting for some top members within the Grenada Olympic Committee (GOC) – longstanding President Royston LaHee, General Secretary, Veda Bruno-Victor, 1st Vice-President, Charlie George and Treasurer, Kingsley Ashby – to resign in the face of an issue surrounding EC$440, 000.00 that cannot be accounted for within the organisation.

Five of the nine board members have resigned from the committee which held a Council meeting last Saturday at which the money dominated the discussions.

THE NEW TODAY understands that some moderate voices within the association are trying to restrain an anti-La Hee faction that wants him out from the position.

According to a well-placed source within GOC, the issue at hand should send a clear message to the President and the three others that they should never run again for office in the organisation.

“They have to call it a day – they have to go without a doubt,” he said.

The official was against the move by the anti-LaHee wing within the GOC to take steps including possible court action to force out the President and his close allies from their executive positions at this point in time since elections should be held this year.

He expressed fears that there could be a long drawn out court battle if attempts are made to remove LaHee and his team as this could see the organisation losing a lot of its funding especially from the IOC to develop sports on the island.

He felt that the issue is already seen by many in the GOC as being very “humiliating” to the LaHee faction and that in itself should force them to see the wisdom in not seeking re-election to office.

He said the four should understand by now that it would be difficult for anyone of them to continue to run the organisation in light of their failure to give a proper account of the funds after several years.

He stated that La Hee is approaching 78 years this year and should seriously consider not running again for office in light of the situation.

However, when contacted Wednesday, LaHee was in a defiant mood and indicated that this issue may just force him to run again for another term in office.

Olympic Solidarity, an arm of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has been pushing behind the GOC since 2013 to account for the money sent for scholarships for athletes and for other developmental projects.

Board members – Anya Chow-Chung, Peron Johnson, Dr. Jean Noel, and Ralph James – handed in their resignations after information surfaced that the IOC affiliate was pressing the local body for years to account for the money.

THE NEW TODAY understands that the local accounting firm Pannell Kerr Forster (PKF) which had been auditing the GOC financial statements for several years was not aware of this huge donation that was given to the local body by the IOC group.

According to the source, the fact that PKF did not make any reference to this large sum of money in its many audit reports of GOC over the years, would leave many to become suspicious that some board members might be hiding something from the local auditors.

He said that the accounting firm cannot be faulted since “Auditing is what you give them – they (Auditors) don’t go through everything.”

He said those Board members who quit took this particular course of action out of a belief that they should have been informed about this huge sum of unaccounted funds as executive members of the body.

The official spoke of being in favour of a smooth transition within the GOC and warned his colleagues who are pushing for “blood” against LaHee and his allies on the Executive that “vengeance doesn’t make sense at this time.”

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He called for an understanding by the President and the other three Executive members that “they blundered” on the EC$440, 000.00 issue and was hopeful that “they could work out a (peaceful) way that they go their way”.

He strongly cautioned persons to rethink taking action that can result in the IOC taking the decision to send down people to Grenada to resolve internal squabbling with the local Olympic association.

The source told THE NEW TODAY that a senior member of the GOC briefed him on a discussion held with the embattled Bruno-Victor who is said to be “painfully absorbing” the unfolding of the event but is insisting that although “it might have been done wrong” not to account to Olympic Solidarity as requested, the fact of the matter is that no financial impropriety took place within the organisation.

He said that Bruno-Victor indicated that the $440, 000.00 money issue within GOC had spread in and outside of the region and that several “friends” had called her in “large numbers” to offer solidarity and give support over her predicament.

The member stressed that the issue should serve as “a lesson for all of those guys” in the Caribbean region who run sporting organisations similar to the local body and refuse to follow proper financial rules and regulations in accounting for monies from international bodies.

There are reports that a resolution was recently submitted to the GOC that nobody should hold office for more than 3 terms but it was defeated by the LaHee-dominated body.

THE NEW TODAY also spoke to a senior accountant in the country on the GOC issue.

He said that the accounting firm that audits the GOC books should have been made aware of a donation of EC$440, 000.00 to the organisation.

“All monies you get should be properly recorded especially in an organisation like that. If you get money you should demonstrate and say look – we receive $5 and we spend it in that kind of a way,” he added.

He said the fact that PKF did not include this money in its audit reports over the years showed that it had no way to find out about the funds.

“We will call it off-balance sheet account. As an accountant we could only audit what we get,” he said, adding, “You can only audit the information that is supplied except if by some means you would have found something that would lead you to think that some funds should have been there and is not there.”

The senior accountant acknowledged that in some organisations “people have a way of maneuvering things”.

However, he said if the funds were co-mingled which happens in many organisations and business companies, the problem with that is that no one would be able to say for certain what precisely some of the Olympic Solidarity money was used for.

The accountant felt that once the IOC affiliate had asked for information from GOC on the use of the funds then those running the organisation should have complied a long time now.

“To me if somebody who is giving a grant asks questions you are supposed to respond. I would have thought that if somebody raised a thing like that it should be dealt with. Not responding is not good because they (GOC) depend on grants,” he said.