THERE is nowhere to run, there is nowhere to hide. Slowly but surely, the Caymanas Track Limited (CTL) chickens are coming home to roost and the rafters are at best very shaky.
The recent forensic audit done by the Public Accountability Inspectorate Division of the Ministry of Finance and Planning on the operations of CTL is confirming the worst. Although the report has not been made public as yet, preliminary checks indicate that CTL is indeed broke, that its accounting procedures do not conform to accepted standards and probably the most mind boggling, if there is any truth in the leaked report, is the non-payment of employees' statutory deductions for an approximate period of two years.
If the latter is indeed true then I would not like to be the company's manager facing an employee who wants to buy a low-income housing unit only to be told that a mortgage cannot be accessed from the National Housing Trust because he or she is no longer a contributor.
The fact that CTL has been losing vast sums of money over a protracted period of time is well known. Horsemen have been experiencing lengthy delays, five to eight weeks — depending on who you talk to — for the payment of earned purse money. The financial losses have affected the provision of proper security at the racetrack which was recently highlighted by the open and brazen murder of trainer Tony Kirlew and the robbery of over $6 million from the till.
Security has been enhanced since those incidents, but this added security is sure to impact on the company's already limited financial position. CTL recently acquired the services of a new financial controller, a Nigerian, who goes by the first name of Prince. One sincerely hopes that this new Prince can at least bring stability to the accounting processes by keeping them in line with government regulations and confirmed best practices. All the best to the newly appointed gentleman at CTL.
Any protracted delay in the payment of purses will have adverse effects on the delivery of the racing product. In every interview done by Vin Edwards, the long-time president of the Jamaica Racehorse Trainers' Association he promulgates that 60 to 65 per cent of the horses currently able to race at the Park are owned by trainers. Merge the non-payment of purses and the perennial problem of collecting monies owed by owners, and we get a potent concoction of misery and woe. Buying the bare necessities for the proper keep and care of horses will suffer, hence the possibility of fewer horses reaching the racetrack on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The people in racing, owners, trainers, jockeys, grooms, and farriers must also come to the realisation that times have significantly changed from the heyday of the late 1980s to just pass 2002. The economic condition of the country has been dramatically altered for the worse with the majority of people in the land having little or no disposable income. Add to this a dwindling supply line of punters entering the Off-Track Betting Parlours or even the racetrack itself with spending power and we can better understand why there are contracted handles and the subsequent inability to pay purses on time and provide adequate security. For too long the people in racing have resisted and resisted any change to what they consider the normal way of doing business. Sometimes this resistance is based on genuine concerns, but far too often resistance degenerates into personal power struggles with a corresponding recalcitrance more akin to obstinacy.
New approaches are required to lift racing from its quagmire of impending doom. The I's must be replaced by the WE and the OUR; personal status by collective gain, and unnecessary talk by concrete actions. We cannot allow racing to skitter along its present path, as racing means too much for thousands in this country.
What is the way out? Full divestment, which must incorporate the building of a new racetrack as part of the selling conditions.