Otters Club In Trouble
By Dilini Perera
Recent financial problems have threatened to close down one of Colombo’s most famous clubs, the Otters Aquatic Club, which boasts a long history of over seven decades.
According to the club’s annual accounts, they are currently millions of rupees in debt to the Land Department. Overspending on events and refurbishments has put the club in the red.
Former General Secretary Jeff Jacotine speaking to The Sunday Leader said that all is not well with what used to be one of the most famous family clubs in Colombo.
According to the accounts presented in the annual report for 2008, almost all the events organised by the club has run at a loss.
The annual “Otters Splash” which is meant to be a fundraiser accumulated a loss of Rs. 261,000. Members and guests were reportedly dismayed when partners and wives of the organising committee won the first and third prizes, both luxury air tickets, whereas usually, they would be redrawn for fairness sake. Allegations have also been made that the club has taken unsecured overdrafts to the tune of Rs. 9 and 11 million in the past few years. When the bank official that was allegedly responsible was contacted, he refused to comment on the matter.
According to Jacotine, the club purchased a high-end security system in order to reduce the cost of manpower.
Unfortunately, according to accounts, the security budget from 2007 to 2009 has increased by almost Rs. 1 million. “I don’t think we would have incurred such an amount if we hired more security personnel,” Jacotine stated.
Land lease and VAT
The annual report for the period of June 2008 to May 2009 stated that the Otters Club owes the Land Department over Rs. 210 million in lease rentals from 1989 to 2005. The club has appealed against this, as well as Rs. 64 million in unpaid VAT.
Even though names of officials were mentioned and thanked in their efforts to settle the land lease in the annual report for June 2009 to May of this year, no final order has been delivered on the matter. In the event that the club loses its appeal in court, the foreclosure of the club is inevitable in order to pay off the debts.
Even though the membership has been informed of this matter, one of the trustees of the club, Captain Milinda Ratnayaka said that this has been an ongoing issue. “Every committee that comes into power has to deal with this problem of lease and VAT”.
The last General Meeting was held without the annual report being made available to the membership. Whereas usually, the report is mailed to the members, this time they were asked to pick it up from the club premises. This made it virtually impossible for the members to know that during the meeting, it was decided that membership fees were going to be hiked by 25 percent.
When contacted by The Sunday Leader, the club stated that they have no comments on this matter.
Court Permits Nomination
On May 24, 2010, Judge of the District Court of Colombo, Mohammed Laffar Thahir issued an enjoining order permitting the nomination of Jeff Jacotine for the Vice Presidency of the Otters Aquatic Club.
The nomination was rejected by the committee under the clause that a member of the General Committee cannot hold office for more than four years and can only be re-elected after a lapse of two years. Even though Jacotine last held office in May of 2008, the chairman of the election officers had rejected his nomination.
However, the order has ensured that Jacotine’s name has been included in the list of nominations.
According to Jacotine, lawyers have also stated that his nomination was valid for this year’s election.
Response To “Business Of Robbing”
The Sunday Leader received the following clarification regarding the article titled “The Business Of Robbing” published on June 6, 2010.
- The vehicles concerned are two Mitsubishis — one Montero and one L200 Pickup.
- Provincial Road Development Authority (PRDA) has filed action regarding Transwater’s Pan Asia Bank Guarantee.
Seylan Bank has gazetted to sell properties to recover monies on a guarantee defaulted on by Transwater.
- Transwater Tax/VAT/EPF/ETF liabilities are not paid in full to the Inland Revenue.
- I am the Project Manager at E. Pihl & Son A.S.
This article was compiled using publicly gazetted documents and a lawyer’s letter to Inspector General Police, provided by me. At no time have I been interviewed or quoted.
Our Reporter Says:
The Sunday Leader did, in fact, contact Matthew Ball for a comment once the documents came into our hands. Mr. Ball said he could not comment, but referred The Sunday Leader to a Construction Manager to the project, who verified the accuracy of the above documents.
The Sunday Leader also made attempts to contact Niroshana Peiris this week, but was reliably informed that he was in remand pending bail.