Cricket: SLC fails to COPE up; comes under heavy fire at hearing

8 September 2019 - 41   - 0

The incompetence and ineptitude of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) officials was laid bare before Parliamentary watchdog Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) this week when they contradicted each other on questions over various financial irregularities and procedural flaws in governance of the million-dollar sports body. 

Led by Parliamentarian Sunil Handunnetti, COPE examined the officials for over three hours, suspended the SLC's controversial charity arm Cricket Aid and ordered them to show themselves again on September 19 to account for some questionable transactions that occurred since 2013. 

They also asked the National Audit Office to produce a special report on Cricket Aid which was formed in 2016. 

Cricket Aid’s suspension came after COPE found that SLC did not follow earlier instructions to change the company's Articles of Association so as to allow the Government auditor to vet its accounts. 

Asked whether the required amendment was done, SLC officials attempted slip away by saying they had. 

But COPE found this to be untrue. 

Cricket Aid was established as a limited liability company with life membership for the SLC Executive Committee elected in 2016, ostensibly to raise funds for the eradication of chronic kidney disease. 

The life membership clause was changed on COPE intervention. 

Its formation and financial dealings were queried by Government auditors in their draft forensic audit into SLC, due to be presented to Parliament next week. 

It says Cricket Aid spent more money maintaining its manager than on charity work. 

He reportedly earned Rs 3.9 million as salary in the last two years while the company spent just Rs 2.4 on charity during the same period. 

The officials were caught off-guard when COPE asked them whether the Board had any off-shore accounts. 

While SLC CEO Ashley de Silva said SLC does not have any off-shore accounts, nor given anyone the authority to open such accounts in SLC's name abroad, SLC secretary Mohan de Silva said they had granted permission to affiliate bodies in England and Australia to do so. 

COPE also extensively questioned SLC on the seven-year television rights agreement signed with Ten Sports in 2013. 

Officials failed to justify the deal which the National Audit Office found had caused a financial loss of over US$ 18 million to SLC. 

According to records, Ten Sports got clinched the rights for US$ 34.873 million despite Neo Sports’ highest bid of US$ 53.115 million. 

Having failed to make submissions justifying why they proceeded with the lower bid, the Board asked for more time to provide an explanation. 

The controversial wire transfer fraud was also taken up. 

But, with no technical expertise to delve deeper, COPE decided to meet SLC officials along with a team from the Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) at a future date. 

The Committee also questioned the objectives of SLC’s proposal to have a cricket campus; why a donation of Rs. 25 million was paid to a temple in Kandy; and also why SLC had not proceeded with the project despite obtaining the land in 2016.

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