The Sunday Leader

A Need To Scrutinise Cricket Board Transactions

by Nirmala Kannangara

The government’s failure to appoint a high-powered financial governing body to scrutinise all large-scale financial transactions at the Cricket Board is expected to bring further losses to Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), it is learnt.

Had the government, as promised earlier, appointed such a financial governing body, all large-scale tender evaluations as well as other expenses approved by the executive committee in the guise of ‘cricket development’ could have been well managed saving millions of rupees, past cricket administrators said.

Meanwhile, on the instructions of a high-ranking government official, the purchase of 6,000 chairs for the Dambulla Stadium had been stopped at the eleventh hour last week as a result of SLC’s alleged failure to follow proper procurement guidelines. Although it is confirmed that the purchase of these chairs had been stopped, the status quo of the plans to purchase two luxury buses to transport the team members, a mini bus and two cars for SLC is yet not certain.

“Although tender notices were published to show that SLC was following government tender procedure, the government had stopped the purchase of chairs even though LCs had been opened for the purchase. We are yet to know about the purchase of the vehicles. All these procedures were followed in a hush-hush manner in the absence of the Cricket Board President Thilanga Sumathipala, Secretary Mohan de Silva and Chief Executive Officer Ashley de Silva who were overseas.

Clandestine meetings were called regularly without even giving a proper time frame for members to get ready. The sole responsibility for this fiasco must be accepted by the two Vice Presidents Jayantha Dharmadasa and K. Mathivanan together with Treasurer Shammi Silva. It is learnt that a close associate of Sumathipala who is also an office-bearer had complained to the Board President how certain irregularities had taken place at SLC during his (Sumathipala’s) absence,” highly reliable SLC office-bearers said on condition of anonymity.

 

Allegations against SLC administrators

Meanwhile allegations have been levelled against SLC administrators for their proposed plan which is expected to be passed at the forthcoming executive committee meeting to allocate Rs.22 million per year for a three-year period to manage and maintain the R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium in the Western Province, Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium in the newly-formed (as per cricket) North Central Province, Pallekelle International Cricket Stadium in the Central Province and Galle International Cricket Stadium in the Southern Province.

“What is the reason for this sudden decision to be taken at the next executive committee meeting? All these years these four stadiums were managed by the Cricket Board from the money the four stadiums generated by holding matches. Generally to maintain an international cricket stadium, it costs around Rs.17 million to Rs.18 million per year. For this, SLC used the money the respective stadiums earned for the year and if that amount was not sufficient for the maintenance work, the rest was given out of SLC funds. However, by allocating Rs.22 million each for the four provinces to manage and maintain the four stadiums, we as Cricket Board employees want to know what will happen to the money these four stadiums generate in future. Would that money be given to SLC or will the four provinces ‘manage’ those monies as well? If so whose pocket would this money go into? This is the biggest ever question we now have. Unless the government, as promised, appoints a committee comprising independent financial experts to scrutinise expenditure over Rs.5 million, SLC will incur further losses in the very near future.

We hope the government appoints an interim body to halt all financial irregularities and change the system of voting, by keeping the voting at provincial level only to one vote per province and doing away with the existing system of districts having two votes each. It is further recommended that only clubs playing first class cricket be given voting rights. By having this system the vote base will be reduced from 148 votes to around 60 to 70 thus ending the politics that is governed by politicians. It is further discussed that the government should bring in legislation to ensure that no politician runs for board presidency,” sources said.

According to the sources, all responsibilities in the four provinces have been proposed to be vested with four members at SLC who are close to SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala.

“Of these four, there are serious allegations of financial fraud against two who are holding responsible positions. It is also learnt that these four will be vested with powers to control all the cricket matches that are played in their respective stadiums once the proposal is passed.

“All inbound matches are handled by the Tour Organising Committee (TOC) which is now headed by Vice President Jayantha Dharmadasa.

When there is a TOC, what is the reason for the SLC to hand over the same work to the respective provinces supposed to be headed by Sumathipala’s catchers? Since this is a money-spinning business, once these four provinces control the in-bound matches, the revenue can easily be syphoned off and SLC will not get any profits,” sources alleged.Meanwhile it is speculated that SLC had sought loans from the national treasury recently.However, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake when contacted said that he is unaware of such a request since he was overseas but added that even if there is a request from the Cricket Board it would not be granted.

Meanwhile, Sumathipala’s revelation that the income SLC was able to generate in London on June 4 and 5, is Rs.9.5 million, questions have been raised as to why SLC cannot come up with the amounts they spent to host the dinner and for the souvenirs they took to be sold.

“Apart from the expenses SLC had borne for travel, accommodation, per diem, Long Room reservation charges and food and drinks, they spent millions of rupees for souvenirs alone. Ten autographed big bats were purchased at a cost of Rs. 9,750 each while fifty autographed small bats were purchased for Rs. 3,400 each. Also for souvenirs SLC purchased 200 autographed balls with boxes for Rs. 1,500 each and 300 T-shirts for Rs. 1,450 each, 300 caps at Rs.450 each, 250 ladies scarves for Rs. 1,300 each and 500 bags with the Sri Lankan logo for Rs. 1,200 each. To air-freight these goods to London and to courier them, nearly a million was spent. Sumathipala is now boasting he could collect Rs.9.5 million but we don’t see any income generated from these two events to be given to President Maithripala Sirisena’s kidney project,” sources claimed.The sources further said that Sumathipala’s aim to generate funds amounting to two to three million USD towards Cricket Aid is a good move but that he should understand that getting money for Cricket Aid is not his responsibility; his responsibility is to generate money for SLC and provide all the necessary facilities for the players on whom SLC and Cricket Aid are depending.

“If not for our players how can we make money? People come to watch matches. If the ranking of our team is going downhill and if the players continue to show poor performance, the income will certainly come down. Give them the best support that we can and provide all the necessary facilities and boost their morale rather than focusing only on Cricket Aid as we are not doing CSR projects,” sources alleged.

Following SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala’s revelations to the media last week that the ticket sales for the upcoming Sri Lanka-Australia series has been outsourced, questions have been raised as to why SLC preferred to outsource the sale of tickets when it could have easily be done by SLC with its well-trained staff.

 

Outsourcing ticket sales

“If Sumathipala has decided to outsource the ticket sales to get a bigger profit we welcome that decision. In such an event SLC will also get profits while the company that had got the tender to take charge of the ticket sale will also get a profit. Isn’t it better if we could do the job here so SLC would have earned double or triple the amount of profits. It may be stated that it has been outsourced to a foreign country when it could have been easily done by a Sri Lanka-based company, sources said.

According to the sources, if the SLC administrators in 2015 were able to generate profits from the Pakistan tour that played three test matches, three one-day internationals and two T-20 matches from May to June, SLC could have done the Australian tour ticket sale by themselves and not by an outsider.

“After Indians, Australian tours always attract many spectators even though our players won’t perform to the expectations. Hence we can generate millions in revenue only from sale of tickets. Pakistan tours are always considered as either a loss or a break-even in respect of ticket sales. But at last year’s Pakistan tour, SLC was able to generate a profit of Rs.27.286 million against the expected revenue of Rs.13.274 million from sale of tickets. Although the Cricket Board estimated that they could earn Rs.13.274 million we were able to generate a further Rs.14.011 million,” sources added. However the sources noted that the previous administrators in 2015 were not able to accomplish the same during the West Indies tour as the expected revenue was Rs.19.911million but they received only Rs.14.404million.

“In such an event it is questionable as to why SLC outsourced the sale of tickets for this money-spinning series which could have easily been done by the SLC and generated several millions in revenue to bring relief to the cash-strapped SLC,” sources added.

Meanwhile a member of the former Interim Committee, Kushil Gunasekera when contacted told The Sunday Leader how SLC was able to make millions of rupees in profit by managing in-bound tours properly.

“I am sure SLC will be able to do the same during the Australian series as well,” he said.

According to Gunasekera, he as the head of the then TOC was able to save several millions of rupees during the Indian, Pakistan and West Indies tours last year although he was unable to generate more money than budgeted from the sale of tickets during the West Indies tour.

“The budgeted earnings from international TV rights for the Pakistan tour was Rs.261.975 but we were able to get Rs.262.610 which was an increase of Rs.634, 875. Although SLC targeted to earn Rs.13.274 million from the sale of tickets we managed to earn Rs.27.286 million which is an increase of Rs.14.011 million. The SLC targeted an expenditure of Rs.53.549 on accommodation but we reduced it to Rs. 50.331 million which is a saving of Rs. 3.217 million.

Although the Cricket Board targeted to pay allowances and per-diems to the amount of Rs.34.098 million we were able to bring it down to Rs.26.693 million and saved Rs. 7.404 million,” Gunasekera claimed. Although the Interim Committee’s budgeted earnings from international TV rights for the Indian tour was Rs.429 million, at the end of the tour they had been able to earn Rs.433.875 million.

“The targeted amount from sale of tickets was Rs.3 million but we were able to make it Rs.3.762 million. We were also able to reduce the accommodation cost, per-diem and other allowances cost, the catering cost etc. Although we budgeted Rs.438.322 as our income we were able to increase it up to Rs.444.962 million by the end of the Indian tour,” Gunasekera said.

However according to Gunasekera, the expected plan to generate Rs.84.531 million during the West Indies tour could not be accomplished and they were only able to make Rs. 83.484 million.

“Still we were able to reduce the expenses. Our budgeted expenditure was Rs.177.947 million but we spent only Rs.172.114 million although the West Indies matches do not attract much spectators,” Gunasekera said.

Refuting allegations, Treasurer Shammi Silva said that SLC is going ahead with the purchase of 6,000 chairs for the Dambulla Stadium and added that there is no such directive from the government to cancel the purchase.

“I don’t know how you are getting all these false information. Either you are fulfilling somebody’s contract or you are on the pay-roll of some party. There is a God above and those who do any wrong to us will be punished soon since we have not committed any crime. We have children and by writing false stories against us you are making us culprits,” Silva said.

 

Money to maintain four int’l stadiums

However when asked as to whether there is a proposed plan to give money to maintain four international stadiums to the respective provinces when it is profitable for the SLC to do it, Silva said that as the treasurer this is the first time he ever heard of such a story. “If money is to be given in such a way, as the treasurer I should know that first. There is no such plan as stated,” Silva added. Meanwhile, Silva did not wish to give details of how much was spent on the London tour.

“Yes we have earned Rs.9.5 million but I cannot give you the details as to how much we spent for that fund-raising event. Although I talk to you over the phone I have never seen you. Why can’t you come to SLC and meet me so I can tell you how much we spent on the fund-raising event,” Silva added.

When asked as to why SLC for the first time decided to outsource the sale of tickets, Silva said that it was the best option to stop people coming to the grounds without entrance tickets.

“Go to R. Premadasa stadium and see how spectators jump over the fences and get into the grounds. We have seen how they then throw their tickets to those who are outside to enter the ground. This is a big loss to us. By outsourcing, under the new automated system they will not be able to jump over the fence and enter the grounds or to use one ticket for a group to enter one by one,” Silva said.

Silva further stated how the present administration had found out about an engineer who had swindled SLC money running into millions during the previous years to maintain international stadiums.

“During the last five to six years this particular engineer had given estimates amounting to Rs. 300 to 400 million rupees for maintenance and renovation.

After we took over office this year we got another estimate from another party which was nearly 70 percent to 80 percent less than what was given earlier. In order to repair a small bridge at Pallekelle, this engineer gave us an estimate to the value of Rs.33 million but when we took another estimate for the same work it was Rs. 5 million,” Silva added.

2 Comments for “A Need To Scrutinise Cricket Board Transactions”

  1. gabriella

    What administrative skills in international cricket management does Thilanga Sumathipala bring to the table ?

    This article generates more questions than answers. The future for Sri Lankan cricket appears dire with a dysfunctional board that does not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. The modus operandi is clearly one of obfuscation to aid the scams and obstruct scrutiny,

    Only in Sri Lanka can an enterprise that cannot be anything but profitable be turned into a loss making venture. Hopefully, President Sirisena will intervene in this fiasco before the situation becomes irretrievable.

    If horse racing is the sport of Kings; then cricket is the sport of the common man. In Sri Lanka it is a source of national pride and some of the nations finest achievements. It is also one of the few sports where Sri Lanka can compete on equal terms at an international level.

    Genuine lovers of the sport must raise their voices in protest at the ‘hijacking’ of the peoples game; it’s maladministration and, descent into embarrassment.

  2. vis8

    SUmapthipala, Shammi Silva, Charith Senanayake….. the current ‘regime’ of crooks and big-talkers………….. not much different isn’t it?

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