March 25, 2007
On Friday we reported that the International Cricket Council (ICC) of CWC had engaged a company called GL Events to undertake works at the Providence stadium which had not been completed by the Guyana Local Organising Committee (LOC). In addition, the report said, the cricket council had refused to approve the appointments of Mr Walter Willis as the Stadium Manager and former Minister Anthony Xavier as the Site Manager.
The report was based on an e-mail letter dated March 17, 2007, from Mr Derek Jones, the Senior Legal Counsel to the ICC Cricket World Cup and addressed to Mr Karan Singh and Dr Frank Anthony. Among other things the letter said, "Over the last several weeks, a number of matters have been brought to your attention regarding your failure to proceed satisfactorily or effectively in relation to your obligations pursuant to the HVA [Host Venue Agreement]. These failures amount to clear breaches of your contract. Every opportunity has been afforded to you to rectify the deficiencies and breaches pointed out but you have failed or neglected to do so."
The letter then went on to list some of the areas still to be completed, and indicated that as a consequence CWC was intervening pursuant to Clause 12.5.1 of the Host Venue Agreement. After citing the relevant provision, Mr Jones stated that his letter constituted "formal notice" that CWC was invoking the clause, and "formal notice" that GL Events had been engaged "to complete those actions which ought to have been taken" by the LOC.
The top men associated with the LOC wasted no time in responding to the Stabroek News report, calling a press conference the same day it appeared. Minister Frank Anthony told the media that the LOC had replied to the letter from the ICC Senior Legal Counsel, expressing disagreement with the issues raised. There had been no response from him, he went on, so he assumed that the matter had been dealt with effectively. Furthermore, he continued, GL Events had been contracted by the Guyana LOC to carry out most of the work which Mr Jones had said was incomplete.
This last, of course, was a somewhat ambiguous statement. Whatever he intended he was asked whether the March 17 letter was complaining about work that the LOC had already contracted GL to do; however his response was in no way enlightening.
When Dr Anthony told the press that all the outstanding work had been completed, the question was put whether this had happened after the letter had been sent. He avoided answering the question. As for the matter of the managerial appointments for the stadium and the site, Minister Anthony said the Guyana LOC had made parallel appointments in the form of former Minister of Sport Anthony Xavier and engineer Mr Walter Willis, and they were at the stadium as he was speaking. There was a collaborative relationship with the CWC team, he said, "So I would say this is a non issue."
Certainly the public will be relieved to hear that the CWC team and the local appointees are collaborating, and that there is no issue there. However, one must wonder about the need for parallel posts filled by Messrs Xavier and Willis in circumstances where the stadium had passed under the control of the CWC - as was originally intended in the contract - but where the international cricketing body had rejected Guyana's appointment to management positions of the two gentlemen concerned. Is this not potentially, at least, a recipe for muddle? In any case, the fact that Mr Jones said that CWC had lost confidence in the ability of the LOC to provide proper site management is certainly an issue.
His letter went on to say that Messrs Xavier and Willis had not participated in the CWC Site Management programme, had failed to attend a workshop in Barbados on February 17, and had missed all seven conference calls conducted by CWC for the site management team. When asked about this non-attendance, CEO of the LOC, Mr Karan Singh abruptly terminated the press conference, although Minister Anthony did say subsequently that only one meeting had been missed and that Mr Willis had recently taken part in another meeting. Nothing was said, however, about the conference calls.
The first thing to be observed is that the two ministers and the LOC CEO who held the media briefing on Friday, tried to avoid the reality that what had been issued on March 17 was in effect a legal letter advising Messrs Anthony and Singh that the LOC was in breach of contract, and a clause of that contract providing for the intervention of the CWC was being invoked. It was not a letter for discussion, and it made absolutely no difference whether the local officials were in agreement or disagreement with it. It was not seeking a response from them, and although they did respond it seems, it was not likely they would have received a further piece of correspondence in reply.
Minister Robeson Benn's cavalier comment that the ICC CWC would have written similar letters to LOCs in other host venues does not help local officials. If it were true, one imagines that it would have already come to light, but even supposing for the sake of argument it were the case, would say nothing for this country that other nations had also not met their commitments; it would simply be an indictment of the capacity of a significant part of the region to discharge contractual obligations.
The least that can be said is that the three senior officials conveyed the impression that the local authorities were not fully seized of the implications of the Host Venue Agreement. This was not a case of local officialdom being given the latitude to decide how well or otherwise the stadium project was progressing; they were party to an international agreement and were judged by standards being applied by the CWC. It doesn't matter if in the end Guyana would have completed everything on time without the intervention of the ICC CWC, which it may well have done; what matters is that it did not meet externally generated requirements under the contract.
Inevitably Minister Anthony complained about the 'negativity' caused by the publicity given to Mr Jones's letter which, he said, was undermining confidence. Exactly how he thought the letter could have been kept secret is a mystery; it was bound to have come out at some point. Furthermore, it would have made sense from a PR point of view for him to have made it public himself, rather than be put in a position where he had to respond after its contents had already been reported in the media. As for undermining confidence, one would have thought that the opposite would have been the case, since everyone would now be assured that CWC would do what was necessary to put everything in place in time.
At some point when the event has come and gone, Guyana needs to do an honest analysis of what happened for future purposes, and learn the necessary lessons from it. In the meantime, everyone simply looks forward to enjoying the cricket in a stadium which Minister Benn said would have been completed yesterday.