Hunt: Public Inquiry has to be serious and independent
Donte Hunt, the Shadow Minister for Youth and Sport, wants the public inquiry into the millions of dollars pumped into Bermuda football and cricket to be a ‘serious and independent one’ which results in the creation of a system of ‘checks and balances’ for any further investment.
The One Bermuda Alliance MP said he didn’t necessarily agree with Sports Minister Glenn Blakeney’s assertion that the inquiry need not be a witch hunt and said he thought Mr Blakeney had only said that to make the idea of an inquiry ‘more palatable’ to the governing bodies concerned.
Mr Hunt said one recommendation that he would like to see come out of the inquiry was the creation of an independent body that ultimately had the power to decide how the Bermuda Football Association and Bermuda Cricket Board would be allowed to spend any future Government grants.
However, of more immediate concern to the Shadow Minister is that the inquiry be a serious one which isn’t afraid to ask searching questions.
“It should be a very serious public inquiry, not just a friendly ‘where did the money go’,” he said. “There should be a serious look to where the money went, how it was spent and recommendations going forward, and how you can prevent this from happening again.
“The Minister (Mr Blakeney) mentioned that it’s not a witch hunt, but in a way I beg to differ. I think he’s making it a little bit more palatable and he doesn’t need to, at this stage it is what it is, the money has been spent.
“The horse has bolted from the stable, a good chunk of it has gone.”
An independent inquiry would mean an independent chairman, and while Mr Hunt isn’t sure where you would find such a person, he believes coming out the other side with a body that oversaw the spending of funds would go some way to improving things in the future.
“A perfect recommendation (would be) having an independent body that looks at these funds and they would be responsible for communicating with these groups and finding out what’s going on,” said Mr Hunt. “Getting these groups to provide audited statements and a justification of every dollar spent.
“Almost, if I want to spend $10,000 on something I submit it and that submission would be very detailed; what it’s for, what is the intended outcome, is revenue going to be generated or is the positive side going to be something else.”
Mr Hunt also wants to see an inquiry that doesn’t focus solely on the money, but also looks at performance, the prevelance of drugs in sport and at clubs, some of which he said are in a sorry state. All of which largely echo Mr Blakeney’s thoughts on the subject.
“If you look at sport, (it’s) not only (about) their performance, but their personal lives, the use of drugs, then you also go and drive around and see some of these clubs,” said the St George’s South MP.
“Look at the state they are in. I went to one (a club), and I won’t say which one it is, it hasn’t been painted, the bottom floor is –totally in disarray, it’s not –useable.”
While not questioning the need for the money that was originally given to sport, Mr Hunt did express concern at a perceived ‘lack of responsibility’ that had allowed it to be spent in the manner it was.
“At the outset when we all saw the amount of funds allocated to sports we had, Bermuda in general, had a concern and an appreciation,” he said.
“The appreciation was that these two national sports needed an injection of money, and it was welcomed. Sports as we all know helps young people, helps the youth. It should give them forward direction and discipline and what not.
“But, on the other side there was the concern. The concern was the amount of money, and that concern was compounded by the fact that there did not appear to be a sufficient amount of responsibility for indicating where these funds would go in the outset.
“The money was almost just handed to them (the sports) with the view ‘look, you guys do what you have to do with it’.
Any future grants should come with a caveat that they be accompanied by a detailed plan for their use, and the ability to audit the accounts every three to six months if necessary, said Mr Hunt.
“Now, with that amount of money it’s imperative that a plan was put in place, for each sport, for each club, they should have developed a detailed plan which indicated how each penny was going to be spent.
“If that had happened we wouldn’t be where we are today where a public inquiry is being executed. If they would have made these various sports do these plans, these financial plans, as well as have regular reports. Just like an audit every six months, or three months, that should have happened, and it didn’t.
“That’s where we stand on the OBA side. We are appreciative of the money, that funding was allocated, (but) the concern was the amount, closely followed by the fact that there were almost no checks and balances put in place to ensure that these monies were going to be used in the correct way.
“I think that in a nutshell is how we feel in the OBA, and I think we represent what the public in general feel about the whole thing.”
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