'Babsy' bites back - Sports minister defends SDF board appointments after Opposition's criticism

Sports Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange has strongly defended her recently announced appointments to the Sports Development Foundation (SDF) board.

Grange was responding to a press release, issued by Opposition Spokesperson on Sports Natalie Neita, who accused the minister of politicising the entity, and brought into question the legality of the assignments.

"The SDF was established as a private entity and was designed in such a way as to prevent political interference and manipulation of the funds under its control. The articles of association of the SDF are very specific in how members of the board are appointed. Items 42 to 47 of the articles of association deal specifically with the matter of appointment and removal of directors and contain a breakdown of the composition of the board," said Neita through her release.

"When the SDF was conceptualised by the most honourable Michael Manley, persons like Howard Aris and Mike Fennell, there were clear indications that they needed to have had members of the board, who were going to have independence for the level of transparency and would remove any political interference in sports and any bias that could arise," she added during a telephone conversation yesterday.

Articles 42 to 47 state that the Jamaica Lottery Company Limited should appoint four directors of the foundation and that the Jamaica Olympic Association was entitled to appoint three. The Jamaica Cricket Association should appoint one director of the foundation, with the Government being entitled to two appointments. It also stated that the directors are to hold office for a two-year period.

Neita ignorant of facts

 However, Grange argued that Neita was ignorant of the facts and defended the legitimacy of the appointments, pointing out during an interview with The Gleaner, that a decision was made by the previous government in 2015 to transfer all shares of public companies that were held in trust on behalf of the Government of Jamaica, to the accountant general, who would hold these shares on the behalf of the Government.

"By virtue of the shares being transferred to the accountant general, the minister would now be responsible for the appointment of the board," Grange outlined. "I think it (the release) is ill-informed, and whoever prepared it for her did not do any research.

"I was surprised she (Neita) would issue a statement like this when it was her government that decided at Cabinet that the matter of shares of public companies that were held in trust on the behalf of the Government of Jamaica, that these shares should be transferred to the accountant general of Jamaica," Grange added.

George Soutar was announced as the chairman of the new SDF board on Monday, with Lloyd Pommells as deputy chairman. The other members are David Shirley, Molly Rhone, Donovan Bennett, Christopher Stokes, Annmarie Heron, Newton Amos, and Compton Rodney. New boards were also named on Monday for Independence Park Limited and the Institute of Sports.

Meanwhile, Grange stated that she has full confidence in the abilities of the members of the board and expects them to do a great job.

The appointments are for a period of two years with effect from November 12.

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