Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Where are we at with the Mini stadium?

 The just concluded “super six” night cricket competition at the Soufriere Mini  Stadium has brought painful memories to my mind. The competition was played under the newly installed lights. Boy oh boy what a spectacle that was!
I thought to myself that this should have been taking place at La Fargue in our proposed Stadium. Night cricket in Choiseul has been my dream and this was why I was all for the stadium. Also, the stadium would be an avenue where our artists and athletes would showcase their talents and skills thus bringing out the best of them.
My skills as a cricketer/sportsman, was achieved through the exclusive use of the best facilities on the island during the period 1970 - 1985. During that period I was considered the best batsman on the island. It has always been my notion that if you give your players/athletes good facilities and conditions they will perform.  (The Voice archives should have an article to this effect which I wrote in July, 1970)
This past Olympics exposed our authorities. So where are we at with our proposed stadium?
This blog is aware that some works have been done so far: Securing EC $900,000.000, deciding on the site, the initial proposed drawings, etc . During my tenure as a Councillor at the Choiseul Village Council some $900,000.00 was deposited in an account solely for the construction of a mini stadium. The whole stadium thing was the brain child of the past Rep. Sometime between September and October last year I understood that some $12,000.00 was used to pay an architect for the drawings and for ground works done on the site. During this time we were in election mode and Council were not having any meetings and as a result confirmation of this pay out was impossible.
Long before the site was confirmed, persons like Glen and the boys had issues with the location for the stadium. Peter (Reds) whom I guess Rufus had empowered to oversee the stadium works, was not budging from his position and disregarded the Glen and the boys’ issues – leave the small field free, and use only the bigger field for the construction of the stadium.
 Where did the funds come from, you are dying to ask, I’m sure?   Rufus approached the Council and disclosed that he had gotten a sum of money which he wants to use for the construction of the stadium and that it was a donation by the Moroccan Government and that we the Council need to open an account so that the funds can be transferred. He also bragged how he got a smaller donation from the Spanish government.  Double checking on his story this blog learnt the following:
  That the monies were donated to assist the different constituencies. But Rufus who seemingly had negotiated the donation, begged the PM to allow him to use this donation for a big project [the stadium] for Choiseul, which he Rufus has had in mind for a long time.  King hesitantly went with the flow and soon special arrangements were being made for the transfer of the funds to a special account at the Choiseul Credit Union in the Council’s name.
The funds were deposited in the account specifically for the construction of the stadium. As a Councillor I kept my eyes on these funds like a hawk to make sure it went towards the intended purpose. I failed in this endeavour. Council was not meeting and I was in election mode and paid no interest in that account which to my mind is safe.
Two days after elections the Labour Party supporters had it on the streets that there isn’t any money left in the stadium funds. How can this reach the streets so fast? Is this a fact, I asked myself? But how can this be? My head went into a spin, trying to figure out what to believe. The news spread like wildfire and my phone (why me?) kept on ringing ceaselessly – persons asking questions as to the truth or denial of the matter. Could I answer this? Nope, not in Council anymore, but made myself a promise to get to the bottom of this. For real, the amount that is $900,000.00 - $12,000.00, which is about $888,000.00, is not on the account. Where did it go to? Who authorised its withdrawal? How could  the funds be deducted when Council was not meeting anymore? Last unconfirmed report suggests that there was below $400,000.00 on the account.
I contacted a senior person in our camp and he confirmed that the past Rep had ordered the withdrawal of the funds to do community projects and to pay workers where a stimulus package funds had fallen short.
Were these monies actually spent on projects? Can these projects be identified and, if any, quantify the amount withdrawn? Were these monies used for campaigning or personal use? Who gave the past Rep the right to authorise withdrawal of Stadium monies for other purposes?  What process was used to get access to these funds? Council was in recess, what channel did the past Rep go through to get access to the stadium funds? These questions must and will be answered since it has reached this blog that a forensic audit has been commissioned on the accounts of the Village Council. This blog welcomes such a move.
A certain Labour party brain told this blog that they [Labour Party Crew] carried out a small audit in the Council and approximately $2m could not be accounted for. Whether this is true or not the forensic audit by Government will determine this.
Now where do we stand with our stadium? With only a few thousand dollars left on the account it will now take a mammoth effort to get started again only because of the greed of politicians. Our youths want to see the stadium completed. Let us not forget that our present Rep, in his campaign rhetoric promised to finish it. But maybe we can relax on him a bit since the mess done with the funds ws none of his making.
We must find some form of sponsorship to help with our stadium. Our Rep must try  and rally corporate St. Lucia and other agencies to help with the financing of our STADIUM. With a serious campaign, I am sure that by 2016 our athletes can shout out about Choiseul’s Mini Stadium.
In the mean time we can take comfort in the statement that the Minister of Sports made during his Budget address, that the La Fargue field will be lighted in this financial year. Or, should we believe in this adage, "promise by a politician is a comfort to a fool."

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