Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT) — the state agency which provides funding to the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) — has issued a May 3 deadline to the local gymnastics fraternity requesting a comprehensive and detailed report on TT’s participation at the Aquece Final Gymnastics Qualifier (Rio Test Event) which jumped off in Brazil last weekend.
The red, white and black was represented by Canadian-based gymnast Marisa Dick, who surprisingly replaced original contender Thema Williams, at the last minute due to an alleged ankle injury, according to the TT GF.
However, in a statement issued by SporTT ’s communications department yesterday, it revealed that no funds were disbursed to neither Dick nor TT GF second vice-president Ricardo Lue Shue (who accompanied Dick) to attend this final Olympic qualifier event.
Having previously disbursed a total of $58,196.76 for gymnast Thema Williams, her coach John Geddart and massage therapist Nicole Fuentes, to participate at the aforementioned meet, SporTT has now written TT GF president David Marquez requesting a full report of all the events which transpired in relation to this final Olympic qualifier.
The statement read, “SporTT has a responsibility to account for state funds and therefore the company has written to the president of the TT GF; David Marquez reminding him that in keeping with SporTT ’s NGB (national governing body) funding policy, a comprehensive report on Trinidad and Tobago’s participation at the Rio Test Event must be submitted by the Federation to the company within fifteen days of the event’s conclusion.
The Federation therefore has a May 3rd 2016 deadline to present a full and detailed official account of all events that transpired in relation to this Olympic test event that has now become matter of national interest.” The statement also revealed that for the financial year (2016), $271,805 was expended by SporTT on the activities of the TT GF, all of which have been focussed on preparation and tournaments of the two elite level athletes (Williams and Dick) under the purview of the Federation.
This includes $93,195.28 for Williams, Dick and their respective technical teams to attend the World Gymnastics Championship in Glasgow, Scotland, where TT ’s spot was secured for the Olympic Test event.
According to SporTT , the procedure has been to not pay money directly to the NGB but rather to pay the supplier or service provider on behalf of the sporting body. However, the only occasions that funds are released directly to the governing body is for per diem (per diem amount granted is based on the call circular from the Ministry of Finance outlining specified amounts for specific countries or territories) for athletes, coaches and other officials at approved overseas competitions and tournaments and for accommodation only in the instance where a wire transfer to the hotel or guest house is not feasible.
Even then, a pro forma invoice or quotation is used to determine the amounts released and the NGB is still required to provide an actual invoice as part of the trip report on their return to TT .
Additionally, Minister of Sport Darryl Smith, indicated that his Ministry and SporTT (under whose purview the TT GF resides) must follow proper process and ensure that all the relevant facts and data are reviewed and analysed so that informed decisions can be made with respect to funding and other areas of support.
He also reiterated that state officials and agencies cannot influence the selection of an athlete neither the appointment nor removal of the Boards of Sporting Bodies which are independent sporting entities whose autonomy is sacrosanct under the Olympic Charter and general principles of sports law.
Newsday attempted to seek a response from the Minister on these most recent revelations yesterday. However, Minister Smith was unable to respond, busy during his government’s Parliament sitting.
SporTT ’s statement concluded, “The Sports Company is currently following its established procedures and protocols with respect to this particular issue.
The company along with the Ministry is also conducting a comprehensive review of all the funding and other support policies with a view to determining where gaps and anomalies exist within the various procedures and systems that may have hampered governance processes over the past few years.
This is all being done to ensure more effective accountability, transparency and an overall more robust governance structure in both state entities.”