Maxwell turns NOC Presser to election propaganda

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By 2018-02-12

By Anjana Kaluarachchi

The Press Conference organized by National Olympic Committee Sri Lanka (NOCSL) last week turned out to be an election propaganda, diverting from its earlier announced purpose - which was to explain about NOC's financial statements.

The NOCSL email inviting the press for a briefing said they are arranging it to discuss the NOCSL financial reports released by the Auditor General; yet none of the journalists or members received the said financial reports up to now.

The Presser was half full of representatives from selected member associations and selected few athletes, who seemed to have pledged their support for de Silva in the upcoming NOCSL election. Some officials even hijacked the Q &A session to cater to the needs of de Silva, as they attempted to praise de Silva and company in the presence of media.

One such official was former Senior DIG (Rtd) Sumith Edirisinghe, President of the Hockey Association, who went on praising de Silva's contribution towards hockey. It was no big surprise to see why Edirisinghe praised him, as he was seen in almost all major International Games overseas in recent years. Nevertheless, the standard of hockey was reflected when the men's team failed to secure at least the Bronze medal at the last South Asian Games, even losing to Bangladesh 4-1, which raised questions as to where this so called help from NOC to hockey has driven them.

It was ironic that recently de Silva led NOC to host a debate programme for school children under Olympic Value Education and those values such as fair play was in no way to be found with the cheeky display at the said presser.

There was no discussion into NOC's financial statements during the proceeding. Even the questions about Auditor General's report about NOC financial statements did not receive direct answers, as most of de Silva's answers contained terms such as "I don't know", "I can't remember", "There's nothing like that" and "There's no corruption", brushing off many questions and largely talking about the upcoming elections, while trying to shift the blame on the de facto Financial Committee.

But in reality the Financial Committee was only there to recommend their suggestions to the Executive Committee and they were not authorized to make any payment even during the time of their operation.

The letter written to President Hemasiri Fernando by Chairman of the Financial Committee Rohan Fernando in 2013 (published in an earlier edition of Ceylon Today), clearly explains many obstacles they faced during the process and concern and fear regarding several questionable transactions, which had fallen on deaf ears.

De Silva chaired the presser along with Gamini Jayasinghe (the Treasurer of NOC for the last 15 years), as well as the present Secretary of the Hockey Association, yet when questions were raised about cheques which were written to the Hockey Association in 2010 (during the time when Jayasinghe was the Treasurer of the Hockey Association), he wasn't even given the chance to answer, as de Silva just said there was no corruption while assuring they had receipts for every transaction.

However, Auditor General's report clearly shows lack of receipts about NOC financial activities where 2012 report clearly states there are no receipts or approval for 97 payments to the value of Rs. 80 million among many other such cases.

Nevertheless, de Silva showed strong financial position of NOC, where he stated NOC had a bank balance of Rs, 82.8 million of which 40 million was in a fixed deposit with the Peoples Bank, where NOC President Hemasiri Fernando is the chairman. Yet many NOC members argued that NOC does not stand for money making; rather they have the responsibility of spending those funds for the betterment of SL sports.

He further stated they received 45,000 USD from Olympic Solidarity Programme and 100,000 USD from Asian Olympic Committee annually, apart from 20,000 USD from IOC TOP Programme and along with interest and rental income NOC gets about Rs.33 million annually. He further stated they distributed Rs 200,000 each to every NOC member.

Although De Silva loudly claims that they don't need government funds to run NOC, he accepts that they need government funds when it comes to various international competitions, which are to be spent on the National teams through the NOC.

He further states that Auditor General had certified NOC accounts and those does not reveal any discrepancies, though those statements include 'qualified opinion' from Auditor General and qualified opinion means 'the information provided was limited in scope and/or the company being audited has not maintained accounting principles.'

Surprisingly, NOC President Hemasiri Fernando skipped the press conference. Fernando who was the President of NOC since 1997 for the last 20 years, is tipped to be appointed as Honorary Life President of NOC at the election to be held on 23 February.

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