25 August 2020

Namal and Mahela: how about starting the innings with an audit?


Julian Bolling, the self-effacing and genial ‘senior citizen’ of swimming in Sri Lanka, knows something about sports councils, national or otherwise. He’s been in so many over the years under so many ministers that he has lost count, he says. And he adds, tongue-in-cheek, ‘[I] must admit I got a 100% track record where we achieved nothing in the end in all the councils I was a part of.’

That’s honesty. That’s not pessimism, however, for Julian adds, ‘I sincerely feel something will happen this time around. I would like to put on paper and open it to all of you to see how I look at Olympic Sports and where we are now and how we can get out of this rut.’

Obviously it’s not only about Olympic Sports, but that’s something Julian knows as much as or better than anyone else. His pessimism is perhaps a product of the composition of the Council this time around. Mahela Jayawardena chairs the Council and in his first comments on the work ahead has clearly indicated that political interference will not be tolerated.

Mahela has talked of starting from the grassroots itself. He’s mentioned the need to amend the archaic Sports Act. He’s acknowledged the challenges and understands it will be a long haul, but believes it’s not impossible. Julian’s optimism could be justified.

The men and women who make up the council have excellent credentials and kudos to the young minister, Namal Rajapaksa for picking them. Their experience and know-how would be invaluable.

Julian opened things up. Maybe he’ll take note. Maybe Mahela and Namal Rajapaksa too. Maybe they already know this stuff. But here goes anyway.

One of the biggest issues is corruption. Either that or horrendous financial management.  Probably both. The new minister has his own plans. He’s shown that he will not hesitate to obtain the views of men and women who’ve proved their mettle on and off the field. If amendment is necessary then amendment there should be. What and when, we do not know. However, amendment or no amendment, there are basics that are non-negotiable. Housekeeping, if you will; in each and every sporting body and at all levels.  

Mahela, Julian and the others probably will have some idea how to go about cleaning up. Maybe Namal too. It might seem rather impertinent for me to suggest stuff to these people, but for what it’s worth, I will go ahead.

Audit. Audited accounts. The minister and/or the Council can ask for audited accounts of each and every sports body under the ministry for the last, say, five years. My hunch is that there are at least a dozen such bodies that just don’t have the documents or else have not submitted the same as required by law.

The relevant officials in the ministry should know which organizations have submitted and which have not. I am willing to bet that there will be a lot of foot dragging on the part of more than one official.

Now if any sports body has not submitted audited accounts, there are actions that the ministry can and indeed ought to take. If no such action has been taken, the question needs to be asked, ‘why not?’ Who was responsible, the minister can ask and someone will have to answer.

It’s an easy way of finding out who the errant officials are. It’s an easy way of finding out the errant associations/federations. The bahiravayas who have taken possession of such bodies are no fools. They know who to tackle and how. They know how to say what’s politically correct. That, as Namal Rajapaksa and the Council know, should not qualify for lenience.

If the minister and the Council play hardball, they will be cheered. If they do what all those Councils in which Julian served did (or rather did not), well, they can, along with all sports lovers, say ta-ta to the kind of future that Mahela Jayawardena envisages and has pledged to work towards.

Other articles in the series titled 'The Interception' [published in 'The Morning']
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