Hopefully, Minister Anthony will now answer the unresolved questions about taxpayers money

The most recent letter signed by Mr. Neil Kumar `When was the last time the GLTA submitted an audited financial report to the National Sports Commission? SN April 30, 2011) convinces me that but for the political route, people like he, Mr. Kellawan Lall and Mr. Kwame McKoy do not deserve and could not have achieved public office in this country. Mr. Kumar, Director of Sports and CEO of the defunct National Sports Commission signed a letter, ostensibly in response to a Business Page article on the considerable resources inefficiently and improperly managed by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport.

Because of our experience with the vindictiveness of the Ministry, I do not wish to draw the GLTA into this matter but since integrity and truth are being compromised publicly, I have no choice but to deal with the misrepresentations and distortions of substance raised by Mr. Kumar. This exchange provides the Minister with the ideal opportunity to rise above the petty vindictiveness of which so many sporting and arts bodies have been victims.

Specifically the column challenged, among other things, the Minister’s failure to account for World Cup money since 2007 and to account to the National Assembly and to taxpayers for hundreds of millions of dollars allocated to the Arts and Sports Development Fund which is operated secretly like a slush fund, away from the knowledge of the intended beneficiaries. Rather than the Minister responding to what is a serious allegation touching on public accountability and impropriety, Mr. Kumar exposed his little understanding of the issues and embarrassed himself by putting his name to letters he cannot defend, quoting secondhand information he cannot support and referring to secondary legislation that does not exist.

Common sense should have cautioned him to check whether there is such a thing as “National Sports Commission (NSC) … regulations” before asking the question under the caption referred to above. Had Mr. Kumar any idea or appreciation of the generally coercive nature of legislation he would have known that no sports organisation, including the GLTA, would have any obligation, as a matter of routine, to submit audited financial statements to the NSC.

On the other hand because the NSC is a statutory body (in receipt of hundreds of millions of public funds), its governing legislation requires it to have its report of activities together with a copy of the statement of its accounts audited and laid before the National Assembly not later than the thirtieth day of September in each year (emphasis supplied). Since Mr. Kumar did not understand the question I asked in my letter of April 24, I am now putting it to his Minister to tell the public the last year for which the report and audited financial statements of the NSC were laid before the National Assembly. Just parenthetically, the audited 2010 financial statements of the GLTA were approved unanimously by its membership in March 2011. Out of courtesy to the Minister and Mr. Kumar, I will ask the GLTA’s Treasurer Ms. Anita Rampersaud-Sawh FCCA to send them copies immediately.

On the issue of what the GLTA demanded from the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, since Mr. Kumar was not at the meeting with the Minister I am proposing to make public my entire notes of that meeting. But the Minister must do likewise and not rely on others coming to his defence with amateurly written letters as we have seen recently. Those notes will clarify two other matters which Mr. Kumar misrepresented in his most recent missive: one, the person who undertook to arrange a meeting of the Ministers of Education and Sports and the President of the GLTA in connection with a Schools tennis co-ordinator, and second, that by early 2010, the life of the NSC had expired more than two years earlier. To save Mr. Kumar from another factual misrepresentation and embarrassing exposure, I caution him that any appointment/re-appointment requires publication in the Official Gazette.

There is no useful purpose to be served in any further engagement with Mr. Kumar who is advised to write the Secretary of the Guyana Tennis Association for any information or clarification he may require in connection with the Association. The issues first raised in Business Page and in this letter involving billions of dollars of public money as well as the governance of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport are addressed to the Minister under whose portfolio they fall, not Mr. Kumar. Hopefully the Minister will now address them with the same speed with which he pursued correspondence with the CEO of the West Indies Cricket Board concerning its team selection policy.

The GLTA never demanded a percentage of the Sport Ministry’s budget

I confess to an inability to discern whether Mr. Neil Kumar’s response (S/N April 21, All expenditure under the Sports and Art Development Fund can be accounted for) to Business Page (BP) of April 17 is a measure of an innate tendency to mislead and obfuscate, a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of what was written coupled with a failure to distinguish between the President of the Guyana (Lawn) Tennis Association and Christopher Ram the incumbent. Even as he confesses – in relation to Business Page – to an appreciation of writing that impresses and persuades, he misinterprets my disclosure of interest as one of bias.

I therefore ask Mr. Kumar to read the column again and provide the taxpaying public with a more informed response to the specific issues raised therein. Until then, there are certain issues in his response that warrant some comment.

1. That the Director of Sports – an office created under the National Sports Commission Act, 1993 – should sign a letter trying to defend the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport for its vindictiveness, discrimination among sporting bodies and lack of transparency and accountability, confirms the incestuous relationship between the Ministry and the Commission, an independent statutory body in receipt of a subvention.

2. Mr. Kumar says incorrectly that I demanded a percentage of the Ministry’s Sports Budget to be assigned to tennis. What the GLTA did was make a request for a contribution to help finance a national team of six under-14 tennis players to participate for the first time in a world lawn tennis event. It was in response to Dr. Anthony’s categorical refusal to our request that we pointed out to the Minister that what the GLTA was asking for was the equivalent to 0.2% of the 2010 sports budget, or 20 “cents” of every one hundred dollars. Since Mr. Kumar was not at the meeting I can excuse him if Dr. Anthony misrepresented our request, which leaves the minister in a rather invidious position. Determined not to go begging the Minister again this year we undertook some audacious fundraising efforts which made it possible for our juniors to participate once again in the WJT, showing considerable improvement.

3. Mr. Kumar suggested that I should have called the Ministry for clarification before writing BP. He may wish to ask his minister and the minister’s secretary of the number of unanswered written and oral communication not only from our Association but other sports bodies as well.

He may also wish to offer some explanation for a piece of advice given to me by an officer recently that I should have someone else sign letters from our Association!

4. Mr. Kumar carefully avoided the disclosure of the ballooning cost of the swimming pool and instead takes us around to the Non Pareil tennis courts which are as much a saga as the swimming pool, in terms of time, quality and increasing, undisclosed cost.

5. Now we are told that money from the Fund went to pay for the Guyana Classics, a project headed by Dr. David Dabydeen, recently appointed Ambassador to China. Carefully, Mr. Kumar did not specify how much of the five hundred million dollars allocated to the Fund so far was paid towards that project and who were the payees/beneficiaries.

6. Since Mr. Kumar accuses me of acting on dated information, can he tell us the last year for which Minister Frank Anthony tabled in the National Assembly, as required by the NSC Act, the annual report and audited financial statements of the NSC.

7. Finally, in connection with the status of the NSC, Mr. Kumar’s response is revealing indeed. He should ask its former Chairman Mr. Conrad Plummer why he has consistently disavowed association with the NSC and whether it was not because the NSC had been defunct and dead for several years. Overcome by the spirit of Easter, Cabinet we are now told has resurrected it!

To use a term in doubles tennis, the ball is now in Mr. Kumar’s and his Minister’s court.