President of the TT Cricket Board (TTCB) Azim Bassarath has denied allegations made by former West Indies cricket star Daren Ganga that there had been misuse of money given to the TTCB by the National Gas Company between 2014 and 2016.
But to simply state that a sum of close to $3 million was spent in alignment with the sponsorship memorandum of understanding with the state agency is not enough.
The TTCB has been facing tough economic times, along with the rest of the country, since 2017 when its allocation from the Sport Co of TT (SporTT) was cut from $2.7 million to $270,000.
In February, the TTCB announced that it had to cut prizes in order to deliver on its plans and provide funding for competitive local cricket.
It was a significant drop from the salad days of 2015, when the board announced bold plans totalling $31 million for a National Cricket Centre in Balmain, development programmes and grants and increased funding for youth and senior teams.
Indeed, the TTCB has done well under the executive led by Bassarath since they took charge of the organisation in 2009 and by 2011, treasurer Sukesh Maniam would boast to Newsday of the organisation’s finances that, “It would seem that we are doing something right.”
Doing things right seems a good watchword now for the team that’s followed Bassarath for almost ten years.
The simple fact is that Ganga’s questions remain to be answered, particularly since they are said to be based on a leaked NGC audit of its spending on the TTCB.
It is not heartening to note that Bassarath’s first public response to this information going public is to condemn the media for reporting on the issue. That’s never a good look or an effective plan.
Since then, the two zonal councils for cricket have expressed concerns about the report and Bassarath’s response, calling for an emergency meeting of the executive. The NGC has, through its president, Mark Loquan, confirmed the authenticity of the audit report highlighted by Ganga and its initial findings that 24 per cent of NGC’s sponsorship was not spent according to stipulation. The NGC has also made clear that it “reserved the right to take further action as it deemed necessary.”
If Bassarath truly believes in the robustness of his organisation’s accountability, the TTCB should make a statement, unequivocally in writing and with some public disclosure of how the contested money was spent. As a state agency, NGC’s donation is not simply an underwriting of an important local sporting initiative, it’s spending that’s barely one step removed from public funds.
As president of the TTCB, Bassarath is responsible to the public for his stewardship of the organisation and should demonstrate greater commitment to transparency in his explanations of its operations.