“…for we fight not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in high places”
Barbados Underground (BU) has taken up a number of untouchable causes over the years in the interest of integrity and transparency in public life in Barbados and the region. Politics and political shenanigans have tended to dominate our agenda in this regard, and the court system ranks highly on our list. But recently BU has become interested in the operations of the Barbados Olympic Association since it has become clear that its role as a facilitator of sport in Barbados has been poorly executed over the years while its fat cat directors have been around for decades living the lives of royalty on the millions of lottery dollars provided to it each year.
BU became specially interested in the phenomenon where, with an election process in place, failed directors could manage to gain reelection to their position for decades with such poor performance records, and also enjoy such overwhelming votes of confidence.
From BU’s investigations, it now appears that this longevity is largely due to a rigged election process which essentially gives absolute control to the directors, and which uses the sports bodies merely as pawns to present a false front of democracy and fairness and to justify receiving the Lotto handouts.
At the recent AGM, BU understands that elections were conducted by the very highly biased Austin Sealy, king of the freeloaders, (who himself received a written reprimand from the IOC for his involvement in the Salt Lake City Olympic bribery scandal in 1999). Far from being an unbiased arbitrator, Sealy chose, during the process, to brag about his achievements; to highly praise the incumbents; and to dismiss the other candidates, even suggesting to the meeting that “in some other countries some of the other candidates would not even be allowed to contest the elections”.
How the process is set up
Nominations cannot be made at the AGM. All nominations for positions on the BOA board must be submitted a full month ahead of the date of the AGM while financial information and Board reports are only provided at the actual meeting, therefore the only persons who are in position to make informed nominations based on actual performance are Board members themselves. The delegates are clueless.
Even though nominations are made a full month in advance of the last AGM, legitimate nominees WERE NOT ALLOWED TO ATTEND THE MEETING, even as observers. At the same time, a new applicant for membership whose membership was to be discussed and voted on at the same meeting was allowed to attend.
At the actual meeting, in addition to the endorsements for the incumbents from Sealy who conducted the elections, Nominees present were given an opportunity to do some final electioneering and self promotion to the delegates immediately before the voting. It was obvious that the Board members had been prepared to make such a presentation, while others who were at the AGM as delegates were clearly unprepared – and it showed. Meanwhile the other nominees who were not allowed to attend had no such opportunity.
When the fairness of this approach was questioned by a delegate, Mr. Sealy aggressively rejected the concern, and did so in a manner that would intimidate any but the bravest person from daring to raise any other concerns.
Concerns were also raised about the fairness of individual Board members having the same vote as a national sport body. This allows the board to hold one quarter of all the votes at the meeting. Mr Stoute gave his standard response to this concern -“we will look at it”. Note ‘look”.
The main concern that BU has with the BOA elections however, is what we understand to be the actual voting process used. Apparently, delegates are handed ballots which require an ‘X’ to be marked next to the desired candidate. In an elaborate charade, delegates then drop their ballot into the box provided at the front of the room.
This approach is all very well for situations where nominations can be made at the same meeting and where the voting ballots are prepared there and then, or where the actual names are written by the delegates as they vote. But commonsense dictates that when nominations are done a full month ahead, all kinds of possibilities arise – such as the opportunity for duplicate-ballot papers to be prepared with false pre-marked votes, and for them to be conveniently exchanged with the actual votes made by delegates at the meeting. To avoid this possibility, a clear glass or other transparent ballot box is normally used to ensure that no hidden compartments, false bottoms, or stuffed votes exist in the ballot box.
Instead of a transparent container, BU understands that a suspicious looking card box, much larger than one needed for the maximum 42 votes expected, was used at the BOA meeting.
What guarantees are there, that the votes that were counted were the same votes that had been cast by the delegates? Let us just say that BU’s information is, that the final vote count is much more closely representative of the wishes of the old guard, than it was of the mood of the delegates at the meeting.
It also appears that after the votes were “scrutinized and counted”, only some details were provided to the meeting, as the chairman only announced certain aspects of the results. Why the lack of openness?
It becomes a lot clearer to BU now, why the election results at these BOA AGMs have continued to defy logic, common sense, and even the mood and wishes of the sport bodies over the years. In the past, there were few avenues through which such concerns could have been exposed and corrected, but with the advent of Facebook, emails and blogs, it is now possible to fully raise and ventilate such concerns.
Will Stoute clarify this matter?
BU awaits a clarification of these issues from Mr. Stoute. In the same way that he is able to run to the press to promise to build a new stadium again (as had been promised last AGM) and to be associated with the Governor General, he can also address this serious issue of transparency within that organization.
Sports Bodies should take a stand
It is also time for the various sports bodies to stand up and be counted and to take positive control of the BOA. BU is calling for a Special General Meeting to be called, and for a vote of no confidence to be taken against the full Board of Directors. If we are wrong about our concerns and about the election process, then the Board should easily win this vote of no confidence and the matter easily resolved there and then in 20 minutes.
At the very least however, in our opinion, ALL of the duly nominated candidates should be given equal opportunity to be at that meeting and to be heard. A free, fair, and transparent vote should then be taken- (in a transparent ballot box) for a new Board of Directors. With the overwhelming vote of confidence that has been claimed by the President, there should be little or no concerns from the Board’s end about resolving this hazy situation which clearly discriminated against those legitimate nominees who were not allowed to attend the meeting.
Government MUST take a stand
With millions of Lottery dollars, which are earmarked for sport development, being channelled through this organization by government decree, the government owes it to the local sports community to at the very least, authorize the Auditor General to conduct an annual audit of the BOA, NSC, and BCA to verify that funds are being used in accordance with the guidelines provided, and that their governance and management practices are above board.
BU will take a stand
This matter will remain in BU’s scope until it becomes clear that all is well in the area of sport administration as it relates to the Barbados Olympic Association. We think that sport is to important a resource to be treated in such a dismissive manner.
How Ballot box rigging can be done
(of course this would never happen in the BOA’s AGM)
Build the box
The box Must NOT be transparent
The top MUST be removable, with a small space into which place the votes
Insert a flap at the bottom which can swing from vertical to horizontal and which exactly covers the bottom. The flap is tacked in the upright position with space for the fake votes to be placed behind the flap and against the side of the box
Nominees for each position must be known before hand
The maximum number of voting delegates must be known before hand
Voting should be done by marking an ‘X’ in a box to reduce possible spoilt votes
Prepare two sets of ballot papers for each vote to be faked
On the first set of papers, complete the voting to reflect the desired results and place these behind the upright flap
Hand the second set of ballot papers to delegates at the meeting
After voting is done, reach in and push flap down, covering the real votes and exposing the fake votes in the box
Ensure that an independent, highly respected authority figure is in place to count the votes
Bragg about the overwhelming support of the delegates – each one will feel as though he or she is in the minority, and be even more intimidated by the process.