Government has ordered an urgent investigation into the operations of the state-owned Kensington Oval Management Incorporated (KOMI), following startling allegations of mismanagement and abuse at the agency that manages the home of cricket.
In an unsigned six-page letter on KOMI’s letterhead, purportedly written by staff, and addressed to Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley, an image was presented of a company in disarray and staff at the end of their tether.
The letter dated February 22, 2017, includes a number of serious allegations, which Barbados TODAY has decided not to publish because of the legal implications.
However, there were questions raised about the ethics involved in some business decisions, and concerns about the company’s direction and its financial viability, with the authors making it clear there was a crisis of confidence at KOMI.
“I can confirm receiving the unsigned letter. I have instructed the chairman [Anthony Waldron] to investigate the contents of the letter and submit a report to me in the shortest possible time. Even though it is an anonymous letter, the allegations are serious enough . . . and as minister responsible [for KOMI] I have a responsibility to look into them,” Lashley told Barbados TODAY Wednesday afternoon.
The issues appeared to be deep-seated and long-running, with the letter writers informing the minister that the workers’ representative, the Barbados Workers’ Union had raised their concerns with Permanent Secretary Ruth Blackman back on April 7, 2016, but she had not kept her promise to convene another meeting “within a few weeks”.
Having failed to get a response from Blackman, they decided to turn to Lashley, the letter stated.
“A promise was made by her to get to the bottom of said issues and get back to us within a few weeks. A year has almost passed and we’re unable to get any form of communication or to reconvene a meeting. These issues are still unresolved and additional issues have since surfaced, hence your receipt of this letter,” they wrote to Lashley.
It was just last month that Lashley had dismissed media reports that Government was planning to acquire Kensington Oval, even as he admitted that the current lease arrangements were unsustainable.
A statement issued by the Barbados Government Information Service had said Government was “carefully reviewing” the lease arrangements ahead of a meeting with the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) on the future management of the sporting facility.
Lashley explained then that the BCA had written to the Freundel Stuart administration requesting a meeting to discuss certain matters pertaining to Kensington, and the relevant ministries were examining all the arrangements in place with respect to the Oval in preparation for those talks.
“To suggest that there is some new plan to acquire Kensington Oval because the Government sees it as a ‘gold mine’ . . . is really to engage in an exercise of speculation,” Lashley had said.
He maintained at the time that his ministry had intended to explore with the BCA “the best way forward” for the future management of Kensington Oval, and in the best interest of cricket generally. He added that Government had already made a substantial investment in Kensington Oval, and hence had a vested interest in preserving the ‘Mecca’ of cricket.