by Linda Straker
- Almost 5 months after the meet, email received citing non-payment to athletes
- Government financial backing met in full for both 2017 and 2018
- LOC response presently in the hands of their lawyers
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell has admitted that he is aware of the failure by organisers of the Grenada Invitational Athletics meet to pay some athletes who participated in the 2018 event held at the Kirani James Athletics Stadium on 21 April.
Journalists became aware of the non-payment almost 5 months after when a letter was received via email which said in part: “Is the government and people of Grenada aware that the local organisers for the athletics meeting Grenada Invitational have not paid athletes or workers for professional services? Why has there not been any publications citing this unprofessionalism?”
Research confirmed that the sender was a Caricom athlete who had participated in the meet.
An email sharing the information along with other questions was sent to the Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell in his capacity as Minister for Finance; the Chief Financial Officer or Treasurer of Grenada Invitation Inc, Fenton Frederick; founding chairman Michael Bascombe as well as a WhatsApp text message to Sports Minister Norland Cox.
The response from Dr Mitchell through Press Secretary Philomena Robertson said that through a Memorandum of Understanding, government has committed to providing some financial backing for the annual athletics meet and that commitment has been met in full for both 2017 and 2018.
Referring specifically to the issue of non-payment to athletes, the response said, “It has come to the attention of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Sports that there is an issue with the non-payment of money to athletes but again, the Grenada Invitational is organised by a private body, and as such, it is that body’s responsibility to honour its obligations to athletes and all concerned.”
The response further provided reasons for state involvement. “Government has endorsed the event because of its benefits to Grenada, primarily to the areas of sports and tourism,” said statement which confirmed that government has already honoured its obligations to the organising committee.
“Government support has in fact exceeded what was mutually agreed to in the MOU,” said the response which did not provide further details on what was meant by “exceeded what was mutually agreed to in the MOU.”
The price structure for each athlete is not determined by organisers. It is determined by the International Association of Athletics Federations. It is not clear how many athletes are yet to be paid but it is understood that the bigger name athletes were fully compensated.
In his response, Minister Cox said, “As it relates to the Invitational I am certain you are aware it’s a private company and not a government entity. As such as relates to their operations I don’t have any knowledge of such. Thank you.”
Frederick, on Tuesday, promised that a response would be provided on Wednesday. When reminded about the response he said via Whatsapp message: “As I told other media reporters like yourself, the Grenada Invitational is a business and we will act this way. We will not haste in a response to accommodate your deadline. We are preparing one, and it is presently in the hands of our lawyers.”
The Grenada Invitational meet is organised by the registered company Grenada Invitational Inc whose directors are Michael Bascombe, Fenton Frederick, Dexter Mitchell and Karlene Purcell. There is a local organising committee (LOC) with representations from a cross-section of stakeholders including government ministries and or departments like the Ministry of Sports and other statutory bodies such as the Grenada Airports Authority.
The Chairman of that Committee was Dexter Mitchell who was removed from the post in June as a result of a criminal matter presently before the court. Purcell is presently the acting chair of the LOC.
At its sponsor and media launch in 2017, questions were raised by journalists about the cost of the event and organisers did not provide any figures but reminded journalists that the event was a private one by a private company.
Days before for the 2017 games, government announced that it was providing financial support, but the amount was never disclosed.
Since the 2018 meet which had less attendance than 2017, an external audit and economic impact assessment are currently being done by an external accountant and a Ministry of Finance official respectively.