President of the SVG Football Federation, Venold Coombs, says that his actions are above board as questions are being raised about the finances of the local Football Federation.
Auditors of the Federation’s accounts have asked for “documentation supporting disbursements” of $95,205 of the Federation’s money and “details of deposits, including source documents, totalling $106,838” to one of the Federation’s accounts.
“Auditors always ask for information when they are doing work. It is nothing new. I have been in all kinds of organizations, government, statutory bodies and all kinds of different things and auditors ask all the time for statement…” Coombs told I-Witness News on Wednesday.
He accused “rejected elements”, some of whom are “perhaps intellectually challenged and dishonest” — who he did not identify — of wanting to sully the name of the sport.
“I never do anything devious in football,” he said.
“You have people come in and do all kind of sh*t in football. Nobody ever questioned them. A man run away with one hundred and something thousand EC — US$40,000 — you ain’t hear nobody ah call in on radio and all those kinds of thing,” he further stated.
However, when pressed for details, about that allegation, Coombs said, “If you don’t know, I don’t know neither.
“But I am saying, a guy run away with US$40,000, the media ain’t hype that, the media ain’t mention it; not one thing was stated in the media except in passing. Yo’ nah hear people ah call in an’ thing and talk and talk and talk.
“But you have a couple people who, perhaps intellectually challenged and dishonest and feel they must … put a stigma in trying to nasty the sport. I am not in that. I’ve been around football for a long time, and I’ve been out of the executive looking on, watching, I had nothing negative to say,” he further said.
“Every single thing at the bank is above board. And you can corroborate this with the treasurer because you cannot withdraw any money without two signatures. You have past presidents allowed one signature … but not this executive here…” Coombs said.
Documents reaching I-Witness News over the past two weeks show the SVGFF’s auditors — BDO — asking for “documentation supporting disbursements during 2012 totally EC$95,205” from the Federation’s savings account at St. Vincent Co-operative Bank Ltd.
The auditors also asked the Federation for “details of deposits, including source documents, totally $106,838” to the Federation’s current account at CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank Ltd.
The auditors, in an Aug. 26, 2013, letter to the general-secretary of the Federation, said they have repeatedly requested the documents as part of the audit procedure and the failure to provide them has resulted in a delay in the completion of the audit.
In a letter to the general-secretary on June 27, 2013, the auditors had said that in a meeting at the auditors office on May 17, 2013 between the auditor, Coombs, and Consultant Bookkeeper, St. Clair Stapleton, during which the draft financial statements were discussed, Coombs “expressed his unwillingness to have the balance of $124,203 payable to FIFA under the Win-in-CONCACAF-With CONCACAF Programme, reflected on the financial statements”.
The letter further said that Coombs further indicated his intention to discuss the waiver of the balance with the relevant FIFA officials, but the auditors were at that time yet to receive evidence of any waiver.
“We await the executive’s approval of the Federation’s financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2011 to facilitate the issuance of our report thereon,” the auditors wrote.
The documents obtained by I-Witness News also show the executive of the Federation expressing concerns about the Federation’s financial transactions.
A meeting of the executive was called on Sept. 7, 2013, and on the agenda were “concerns of the auditor … as detailed in her letter dated August 26th, 2013”.
The minutes of the meeting do not show Coombs among the persons present.
The agenda of the meeting included “The list of expenditure from the FAP account for which [the auditor] cannot find supporting documents” … and “The problems face (sic) by the SVGFF where the president’s signature is a ‘must’ for the cheques to be honoured by the bank”.
FIFA’s Financial Assistance Programme (FAP) is designed to motivate and empower the associations and confederations to organise development programmes that meet their needs and strengthen football and its administration in the long term.
On the agenda of the Sept. 7 meeting was also a judgement handed down by the High Court in favour of former president of the SVGFF, opposition lawmaker St. Clair Leacock, “in the matter of ViniClean (sic) Floor Maintenances (sic) Services Limited And the SVGF (sic) in which the SVGFF has no legal representation”.
The agenda also included the matter of Coombs leaving the country without informing the executive and “reasons given for the removal of Marvin Fraser as a signatory to the SVGFF account at CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank”.
According to minutes of a Sept. 7 meeting, 3rd Vice-President of the Federation, Elroy Boucher, stressed that “the executive on many occasions could have prevented many of the problems that we now face from occurring.
“He reminded the executive that Mr. Fraser – treasurer, gave the president permission to be the ‘must be’ signature of all cheque.
“This was a grave mistake and such was expressed with the executive took office,” the minutes reflected Boucher as saying.
“He further stated that each executive need (sic) to be concern (sic) about their character, and integrity and noted that the problems with the ‘cash account’ threatens to stain the character of all. He further stressed that the executive is at its midterm point and should ensure that going forward the affairs of the SVGFF is conducted in a manner befitting such a national organisation,” the minutes further said.
The minutes also reflected 2nd Vice-President Marvin Fraser as having “informed the executive that as it regards expenditure and lack of documentation, the president has assured him that all vouchers will be signed.
“He (Fraser) stated that he trusted the president and believed what he was told. He (Fraser) stated that it was an error on his part to agree to the president being the ‘must signatory’ on the SVGFF accounts.”
The minutes further says, “The executive unanimously agreed that there were problem with how the business of the SVGFF was being conduced and that there is a need for things to be done differently.”
Meanwhile, Donald Thomas, “in his contribution stated that he would not allow any president or anyone else to make him look bad as it regard the finances of the SVGFF,” the minutes said.
The meeting passed a motion mandating that the president adheres to the constitution of the Federation.
The motion further said that the president “must provide documentation supporting disbursements during 2012, totally $95,202.00 from the SVGFF savings account … held at the St. Vincent Corporative (sic) Bank”.
The motion also mandated that the executive must determine where funds coming to the Federation are deposited; that the cheque books must be handed over to the general-secretary and the accounts department; monthly financial statement must be provided to the executive; stipend advance must be approved by the executive; any charitable contributions must be tabled at executive meetings; any expenditure over $5,000 must be approved by the executive, and, among other things, members of the executive must be given room to carry out their functions.
Coombs told I-Witness News that as president of the Federation, he opened an account at the St. Vincent Co-operative Bank account with the treasurer countersigning.
“The St. Vincent Co-operative Bank account was opened by me and was opened for strategic reasons,” he said.
He said that he “put up a good fight” in Switzerland and secured television rights monies.
When the funds were to be deposited, Coombs said, there were “some problems” with the Federation’s account at FirstCaribbean International Bank “in regards to information that we had to give to the FIFA auditors, KPMG”.
He said auditors from KPMG were querying $400,000 deposited in an account in Trinidad under a previous football administration.
“… no proper documentation was given for that account so the KPMG people were asking about that, along with one or two others under the previous … administration,” Coombs said.
He said the FAP money was put on hold.
“One has to be careful because cheques from different institutions normally take a couple weeks before they are deposited… As a result of how our thing at FirstCaribbean went low, and, having to pay the affiliates them at the time when I got the television rights money, plus, I couldn’t go at the former National Commercial Bank, because football has a debt of over $50,000 that was there under the previous executives them that they really didn’t deal with….
“Then again, I couldn’t go at RBTT because again, a debt under the previous executive. I couldn’t’ go at Scotia Bank because the form there were filled out by myself and the treasurer and the process there was extremely slow. I didn’t get a reply because I had to supply a lot of documentation.
“So, the quickest way to do it was to go an deposit it by St. Vincent Co-operative Bank,” Coombs said, noting that a national competition has just finished and the prizes had to be distributed.
He said there were initially no questions about the account.
“All the things were organised. The problem came about after people saw the kinds of cheques them not signed by the accustomed signatories by the bank,” he said, adding that St. Vincent Co-operative Bank does not have checking accounts.
“I asked them to make out managers’ cheques. Payments were made by manager’s cheque and, of course, you have things you pay by cheques, for example, trophies and cash prices to the affiliates and things like that,” Coombs told I-Witness.
“The monies were accounted for, the monies were used for football,” he said, adding that if he were faced with similar circumstances again, he would open a similar account again.
“… if it happens now, I will do it again … because I had the affiliates to account for. There is no way I could have gone and deposit in any of the other institutions,” he said, adding that a third bank “is claiming” that the Federation owes them and would have taken the money as payment of those outstanding amount.
Coombs explained the use of the money, saying,
“It is a cash account and clearly, you pay by cheque for some of them, for example big set of money and so on, you write out cheques for. The other set where you help out and all different things, vouchers were organised.”
‘all accounted for’
He further told I-Witness News that the transactions “were all accounted for and they are all organised for football.
“It just mean that the auditors are very tardy in their work. It is over one year that we are waiting for the auditors. I wrote to the affiliates twice to apologise to them for the — I don’t even know how to describe it — delay. It is most disgraceful — over one year,” he said.
‘culture of hooliganism’
“Let me tell you something, This nonsense about things at the bank and all them kind of thing is because of the culture of hooliganism by certain rejected elements and bad eggs in football and you know that,” Coombs further told I-Witness News.
“There are worse things that happen in other sporting bodies that the media ain’t take up and run with. Just some time ago, [a certain person] put certain things in the newspaper about certain things that are going on in a particular discipline. Nobody in the media take it up. But there you have it, people always try to take football down into the gutters, and that is totally unfair to the sport,” Coombs said.
“And the people them who going about the place and trying to nasty football are some unsavoury characters. People who if they come into any general setting, you will hear how they are exposed, because not only are they dishonest but they are also really fraudulent,” he further stated.
“The issue with the St. Vincent Co-operative Bank account should have never been an issue. It happen after people saw the cheques them out at Peace Memorial Hall, people want to say, ‘Wait where then cheques come from, where them signature they doing?’” he said in reference to recent prize-giving event where he said teams received up to $10,000
“Rather than praise me, for going in Switzerland and fought to get television rights here, … they flip the side around and make it look kind of sour. … Every time something is done positive, you hear certain sour eggs they to put a different light on it,” Coombs said.
“You have all kind of sports in St. Vincent with all kinds of things going on but the people in the media know about it but they keep quiet because they feel they would offend certain persons. … But football, where you have lot of simple people playing, must always be characterised in a particular light. That is very unfair to the sport. Very unfair to football, because football don’t deserve this kind of thing,” Coombs said.