By Rae Roberts
The Grenada Olympic Committee (GOC)faces two major challenges, one clearing concerns regarding its use of Olympic Solidarity funding and the other being regaining the confidence and credibility of the wider community. In the last two weeks, the Olympic Committee Board of Directors has seen four resignations, members claiming that they were unaware of the Olympic Solidarity auditors report, dating back to 2013
The issue has captured significant media attention. The long-serving President Royston La Hee apologizing and taking responsibility for not passing the information to the new directors who joined the board in 2017. The faster the remaining directors on the GOC’s Board and their Olympic Solidarity auditors can work to clear up auditing concerns the better for the local Olympic Committee.
The issues have tarnished the image of the GOC and the longer it remains unresolved it will arouse more and more public curiosity. According to the President, there is no evidence of individual wrongdoing, noting that the $400,000 plus were all used for the development of sports supporting athletes on scholarships, helping tennis and others with facilities among other things.
Having led the GOC for almost four decades, La Hee is known for his honesty and so too are the other directors. They have all distinguished themselves as people passionate and committed to improving sports. The success of many of our athletes can be attributed to the efforts of the GOC.
Nevertheless, despite the many years in leadership, exposure to a long list of international training and working with the premier sports federations and donors they have sadly fallen short.
To have allowed a financial issue with Olympic Solidarity (OS) to linger from 2013 to 2021 is a poor reflection of management. The excuse that OS has changed its formula for reporting and accounting in recent times thus impacting the GOC and other nations in the Caribbean and around the world is a lame excuse. The local Olympic Committee ought to have fallen in line with the new procedures.
The decision by the longest-serving directors to keep the Olympic Solidarity issue among themselves rather than share their dilemma with all their newly elected members in 2017, is a blatant disregard for transparency and respect. Going forward the 16 national sports federations owe it to themselves to put the structures in place that ensure elected officers are obligated to account for their stewardship and not just to the management team, but the wider community. They too are stakeholders in national sports.
Also, term limits for elected officers are worth considering. A President holding office for almost 40 years and a general secretary for almost 30 is a long time. People can become complacent and things can happen to the detriment of the organization. Furthermore, the predicament of the GOC is a lesson for all associations. They must ensure good internal financial best practices. There has to be a paper trail so that questionable issues can be tracked and dealt with appropriately.
Some of our Associations have million dollar plus budgets – thanks to the generosity of their parent body and funding agencies. Elected officers are often skilled in many areas of finance and volunteer to keep the books and record along with their full-time job. The plight of the Grenada Olympic Committee shows that going forward such organizations must have more than a secretary in the office. They also need competent finance officers and oversite committees to monitor the performance of the association, ensuring that things are done properly and donor standards are met.
In summary, this GOC embarrassment ought to be a learning experience for all national sports associations and aspiring administrators of sports. Along with the many implacable volunteers, there must be professional staff to complement the work of the volunteers
Let’s hope this audit issue with Olympic Solidarity is solved quickly and normalcy returns.