WITH the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO) executive election set for Sunday, a war of words is developing between calypso veteran and former executive member Errol “Bally” Ballantyne and outgoing president Lutalo “Bro Resistance” Masimba.
In a press release on Tuesday, Ballantyne raised questions about the findings of a 2018 Ernst and Young audit of TUCO. He questioned sums paid to the organisation’s president for commissions and vacation, and said that in 2012, he was appointed to TUCO’s financial committee, only to be removed when he tried to “find out the truth.”
He said that in 2017, when the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts engaged Ernst and Young to do an audit for 2013-2016, he was overjoyed, “as to me it meant they were going to continue what I started.”
Ballantyne said he had to apply under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to get a copy of the 2018 audit report. He said a membership meeting was called on March 7 to discuss the matter, but the meeting was postponed to March 14. He added that he wrote five letters to the organisation before the meeting was called.
He said despite TUCO saying it had not received a formal copy of the report from Ernst and Young, he offered to get the executive a copy.
Ballantyne said in the March 14 meeting, held at Queen’s Park Savannah, Masimba had the general secretary read a pre-action protocol letter which said Masimba was taking Ernst and Young to court.
“At no time he addressed any of the findings in the report, instead he had (the general secretary) saying it’s not the final report. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Ballantyne said.
In response to Ballantyne’s press release, Masimba told Newsday the organisation never received a formal copy of the audit report from Ernst and Young. He clarified that TUCO was not taking legal action against the auditors but rather against a story that was published in another daily newspaper about the audit report.
Masimba said the Ernst and Young report went to the line ministry and it was laid in Parliament. He said the matter was aired in at meeting in either 2012 or 2013, and said subsequently a newspaper report was done around Carnival this year.
That newspaper report repeated a number of things which TUCO felt were directly against the organisation and him in particular, Masimba said.
“Therefore, I went to the attorneys to get their opinion about that newspaper report. What was read in the meeting (which Ballantyne’s press release referred to) was the legal opinion presented in relation to that newspaper’s report,” Masimba said.
He said even though the matter had been aired already, the organisation agreed to hold a meeting on the insistence of Ballantyne and others. This meeting was scheduled for March 28 but was postponed because of the covid19 pandemic and ensuing stay-at-home measures.
He said the meeting was called, even though there was no quorum, and a discussion was still held since the TUCO executive “has nothing to hide.” Masimba claimed there were efforts to have TUCO’s election postponed on three occasions and added that every meeting requested by Ballantyne was accommodated.
“For Mr Ballantyne to go to such lengths to try to disturb the democratic process of the organisation is beyond me,” Masimba said. Ballantyne is vying for the post of public relations officer, while Masimba is seeking re-election as president.
Masimba said the easiest way to deal with concerns about the organisation is through the election, where members can elect who they want in office. He said he did not feel good about the accusations.
“I am accused of receiving commissions. All the documents are there that shows commissions are awarded for people who bring in sponsorship. I am accused of receiving commission for sponsorship brought into the organisation and that is painted in a kind of light in the audit report.” Masimba said he was accused of receiving payments in lieu of vacation but said this is a normal process in the corporate world.
Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly on Tuesday confirmed the audit was laid in Parliament.
“TUCO is not a government institution. It is a private organisation and so I know they are having their election at this time...and therefore any comment based on that, and any verification can be done based on the content of that report which is public business. As to the details of the comments made by either party, I have nothing to add,” Gadsby-Dolly said.
Voting in TUCO’s election begins at 10 am and ends at 4 pm. The results are expected later on Sunday.