An audit into the financial problems affecting West Indies cricket has found a “massive hole” in its coffers and, according to board president, Ricky Skerritt, sounded “an alarm bell” for its future.
The report, compiled by external and independent auditors PKF, suggests Cricket West Indies (CWI) has suffered from overly optimistic revenue projections and unsustainable costs. It also criticises an opaque and inadequate accounting system, which enabled abuses to go unreported and posed a threat to “the board’s long-term sustainability.”
News of the report’s findings comes as CWI struggles to pay match fees owed to its players. But while it is clear the current board management is grappling with a cash flow crisis, the report puts much of the blame on historic factors.
Those historic factors centre predominantly on the previous administration, headed by David Cameron; Cameron has told ESPNcricinfo that he is the victim of a “smear campaign” and questioned the “credibility of the report and its findings.”
The report – intended only for the attention of CWI directors but seen by ESPNcricinfo – criticises the previous administration for creating an unsustainable bureaucracy. Among the key issues was the decision to promote the Corporate Secretary to the position of Chief Operating Officer (COO) within the same accounting period as recruiting a new CEO (Johnny Grave) to perform similar tasks. The report estimates this squandered over $300,000.
“To put into perspective since January 2017 the corporate secretary [the COO] earned US$19,000 per month or about US$646,000 for the last 34 months,” the report reads. “Assuming that the fair market value for such service is US$10,000 a month (at extreme) CWI has paid an unnecessary premium of approximately of US$306,000 over that period for no apparent reason.”
There is also criticism of the manner in which Richard Pybus was re-employed.
“Mr Cameron brought back the former Director of Cricket as Director of High Performance without prior knowledge of the board, the CEO or current Director of Cricket. Furthermore, this new position within the Cricket Department was never identified as a key role by the Cricket Committee. As well, the appointment was not approved by either the HR Committee or board in advance of a contract being offered. The CWI contract was worth US$280,000 for a two year-period.”
Pybus has subsequently left the organisation, while the position of COO has been made redundant.
The report has also interpreted a dip in the projected revenues CWI is due to receive from the ICC as a “massive hole” in board finances.
In 2018, CWI was projected to receive $128m over the next eight years from the ICC, a payment of $16m a year. But while the ICC had, indeed, projected that figure, it was only a projection, based on how much revenue future ICC tournaments were expected to raise. That has since been revised downwards (though there is a possibility it could go up again, given two ICC events are due to be held in India before the cycle ends in 2023).
Currently, CWI is forecast to receive around $117.6m over that eight-year period leaving them with, as PKF reported it, “a massive hole” of over $10m in their finances.
The report, however, focuses on a $50,000 bonus to Cameron, the CWI’s president at the time, for his role in securing the $128m projection.
“At a directors meeting dated March 10th 2018 (as CWI moved towards a cash flow deficiency of $21m),” the report states, “a resolution was passed authorising an honorarium of $50,000 for the then President for having “worked beyond the call of duty” to get the ICC to allocate the $128m to CWI. This honorarium was paid in two payments of $25,000 on 5th June 2018 and 31st July 2019.
“The revision downward from $128m… has caused significant hardship. This is a massive hole.”
Cameron – who has not seen the report – believes the current regime is “bent on covering their incompetence and failure to deliver… by desperately trying to shift focus to me with baseless accusations.”
Cameron was president of CWI (previously WICB) from March 2013 until March 2019. At that time he was defeated in his re-election attempt by Skerritt who called for this report.
While Cameron is a focus of the report, the board of CWI also come in for criticism. They are censured for being “unduly accommodating” of Cameron and for failing to heed previous warnings. “We are of the view Mr Cameron recognised that the Board would not substantively oppose his course of conduct,” the reports states.
Cameron insisted every decision he made had the appropriate approvals.
“I flatly deny each and every allegation made whether expressly or implicitly against me,” Cameron told ESPNcricinfo.
“Every single payment, whether to me or otherwise, was approved by the Board of Directors and/ or the Sub Committees created specifically for the purpose of ensuring independence and transparency. This is especially the case with the honorarium paid to me, which was approved in accordance with Article 50.7 of CWI, which provides for such payments.
“The honorarium was based on the tremendous amount of work done by myself in the capacity of Chairman/President in leading the organisation and the tremendous sacrifice and commitment over the years and not for any specific achievement. The item was suggested by a Director and a special committee was constituted to review and advise.
“Most members of the current CWI board also served during my tenure including the current president and vice-president. All decisions made were endorsed by them. You must therefore ask the current president and vice-president to explain their participation and votes on these matters.
“The fact that CWI cannot now pay its players is as a result of the current Board’s lack of, or poor planning and cannot be blamed on the former Board. My six years at CWI as President, will be recorded as the most successful in the recent history of West Indies cricket outside the 1980-1995 era.
“The author of this report is therefore not well informed or independent, and/or acted on instructions of those who hired him.”
CWI is coming under increasing pressure to publish the report in full – Michael Holding, the former fast bowler, has called on Skerritt to match his pre-election talk of transparency with action.
But Skerritt says there was never any plan to publish the report and insists its recommendations – most of it which relate to greater clarity and accountability in reporting and a lessening of the executive role of the president – have been enacted.
“The PKF Review was an internal alarm bell for CWI,” board president Skerritt told ESPNcricinfo. “In carrying out its assessments, PKF uncovered some illustrations of questionable executive standards and practices. It verified and emphasised the need for drastic operational reorganisation and realignment, with an urgent need for improved risk assessment and cash flow management
“Along with the Wehby Governance report [a review of the CWI governance], which is due shortly, the report has already formed one of the foundations on which significant reforms will be built. I am unable at this time to comment on your questions about its more specific findings about the action of the previous president.”