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Fri Apr 18 20:16:19 SAST 2014

Atletics SA can't pay athletes or staff salaries

DAVID ISAACSON | 21 October, 2013 09:200 Comments
Khotso Mokoena
Image by: Roger Sedres / Gallo Images

ATHLETICS SA (ASA) is in dire financial trouble again after the federation's bank account was attached by attorneys who are demanding R1.5-million in outstanding fees.

The upshot is that:

- Staff have not been paid this month, with one employee confirming their salary had not been paid by Friday (payments are supposed to be made on the 20th of each month, but when that falls on a Sunday they are paid the Friday before);

- Athletes who competed at the world championships in Moscow in August might not receive the daily allowances they were entitled to;

- ASA's AGM, already long overdue and scheduled for mid-November, might have to be cancelled.

The claim, by the firm Dev Maharaj and Associates, dates back to the public spat early in the year when the majority of ASA's board tried unsuccessfully to impeach president James Evans.

At the time the cash-strapped federation had been unable to pay staff salaries - and now employees might not be paid again.

In a letter to board members on Friday, Evans said: "Our bank account has been attached, and until the attachment can be removed, we are unable to pay salaries this month and pay athletes’ licence insurance.

"Per diems owing to the team who went to Moscow are also not going to be paid until we arrange alternate funding."

Evans - who later told Times Media that the situation could still be rescued before month-end - blamed the attachment on board members who had refused to sign a resolution to appoint lawyers to fight the action.

The resolution would also authorise Evans and his vice-president Hendrick Ramaala to sign and depose affidavits as required.

"Please be aware that the actions of board members Pieter Lourens and Shireen Noble, plus those who have not responded yet, have delayed our attorneys fighting the case against the attorneys who are seeking R1.5m from ASA," said Evans.

"Unfortunately for them, they have not succeeded as sufficient board members have signed to pass the resolution."

Evans declined to explain to Times Media why, if enough board members had signed the resolution, there had been a delay in fighting the action.

Lourens denied the charge and countered by accusing Evans of appointing the new attorneys without board approval. "I will not sign his cover-up."

Evans denied doing "anything improper", and later suggested ASA still had access to their bank account. But he didn't elaborate.

Noble also denied the charge, saying she didn't believe it was right to oppose the lawyers who had represented them earlier in the year.She further complained that the ASA board had not met since January this year, yet decisions were being made without the board's approval.

"It was always the intention to hold one (a board meeting), but there was always a need to make sure that the cost was minimised," Evans said in his letter.

"Holding it with the AGM would have made sense and notice would have gone out this week, but there is no spare money, for now, to pay for one.

"So, unless all board members agree to pay for themselves to attend a meeting out of their own pockets, including the hire of a venue, etc, the meeting will be delayed."Likewise the AGM will have to be postponed."

ASA's financial year ends December 31, and its AGMs have traditionally been held in April, but this year Evans and his board were locked in battle at the time, fighting each other in court. The R1.5-million claim, which includes payments for advocates of more than R800,000, relates to work done for the board from April 4 to May 23.

Times Media understands that ASA has just R1.1-million left in its account, but Evans ended the phone call before he could be asked to comment on this. The squabbling between Evans and his board paralysed the federation and the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) stepped in and put ASA into administration in April. But in June they were forced out by the IAAF, the sport's world governing body. Sascoc withdrew, but suspended ASA claiming poor corporate governance.Evans, in his letter yesterday, said attempts by board members to derail ASA would fail.

"I need to add that the liquidation of ASA will not benefit those who are trying to grab power. It is more than likely that the IAAF will support the elected leaders to revive the sport in South Africa. So that will not succeed.

"In the meantime, Hendrick and I will continue to try to save the sport for the athletes."

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