Storm over silence on Athletics' Lottery funding fraud

2011-10-01 00:00

“SINCE when do the accused and those accountable for a crime get allowed to walk free, or even to make decisions as to when and where investigations are made?” asked an irate athletics administrator.

He was responding to a recent newspaper report that KZN Athletics president Aleck Skhosana and his executive should be allowed to determine if criminal action would be taken against former finance and administration manager Joyce Smith and her assistant, Sandy Moses. They both resigned hours before they were due to attend a disciplinary hearing regarding fraud in excess of R90 000.

The administrator continued, “It is the executives who are ultimately accountable for all actions, and the finances in particular, of the association. It has been shown that this has gone on for a while and even continued this year: they [the executive] must all go. They have done nothing [to stop it]. Only Logan Naidoo has shown any sort of interest in sorting this out. Where is Skhosana? What has Willie Mtolo said about it? He is supposed to represent the athletes? What about Blanche Moila, she is on the ASA [Athletics South Africa] board [with Skhosana], and said not one single word.”

The same, he said, applies to the chairperson of Comrades.

“These people take on the status of top positions, but don’t want to be answerable. Their silence and inaction [since March] is inexcusable, and heightens concern that they are hiding much more. They have shown their incompetence. They must go, and go now.”

Former finance chair John Hall, who first made the concerns public in March, confirmed that all executive members had been made fully aware of the documents and details of the fraud long before the audit report was tabled, “but they have done nothing and said nothing”.

“Why?” asked Hall, who personally briefed Skhosana long before he made his concerns public and highlighted the misuse of Lottery funding. A flurry of e-mails and social media messages followed Wednesday’s Witness article reporting the resignation of Smith and Moses.

Clubs and runners are looking to set up meetings, create protest campaigns and even cancel all races and meetings in the province until Skhosana and his executive and committee chairperson resign and a new committee is elected.

Said Martin Birtwhistle, who was a club chairperson and runner for more than two decades, “In a show of no confidence in KZNA, all clubs could refuse to host any race until such time as this matter has been properly dealt with. “This would raise the temperature dramatically in the shortest possible time and force ASA to address the matter.”

Said Grant Pedler of Forest Hill Sports Club, “Their [the executives’] resignations should only be taken on the condition they withdraw from all levels of athletics and do not return, even as runners, until they have gone through a disciplinary hearing to clear them of wrongdoing or face the penalties.”

While the inter-club communication lines are burning, few are willing to discuss the matter openly as they are concerned that some executive members will attempt to manipulate meetings.

The night before the last council meeting an accommodation booking, initially made by KZNA, then taken over by Skhosana using a separate account, brought 35 club representatives down to Durban. Patrick Hlongwane, another executive member, was also involved in the booking arrangements.

“Thieves cannot be allowed to duck responsibility by resignation and should be prosecuted and civil steps taken to recoup lost monies,” said John Schnell, retired chief of the KZN Road Traffic Inspectorate, in a mail to local club chairpersons.

“Actually my sentiment is that they should call Assets Forfeiture and take their ill-gotten wealth away from them.

Hall continued, “There are large amounts of public funding involved here, and even although it has been reported to authorities there seems a lack of action. Why? There is a case of misuse of SAPS vehicles documented on photographs, but no apparent action. Why? There is a complete blanket on the association of KZNA and the Academy of Excellence, which features on the (KZNA) letterhead. Why?” asked Hall, who has a myriad of evidence and questions suggesting there is considerably more to this case than has currently been made public.

Skhosana is employed as the manager of the Academy of Excellence, but few local sports administrators or sportspeople are able to give any account of what it provides and athletics administrators, and athletes have no knowledge of why or how the academy is associated with KZNA.

Skhosana has repeatedly refused to respond to his critics.

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