By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
AFTER not receiving their subvention cheques for almost two months, Tim Munnings, the director of sports, confirmed that the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture is in the process of meeting its obligations to the athletes, not just in track and field, but the eight other disciplines.
Some athletes, especially in track and field, have complained that the delay in payment has caused them some anxiety as they have not been able to meet their monthly obligations as it pertains to their training conditions in the United States of America.
Munnings, in an interview with The Tribune, was also responding to the claims of the National Sports Authority being in disarray and the inflated cost that they will incur to have the new Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium completed.
The joint programme introduced by the Ministry of Sports in conjunction with the Bahamas Olympic Committee to assist elite athletes with their training, based on certain criteria, came under heavy criticism by athletes, who say they are still waiting to find out when they will be paid.
“There was a delay in the subvention payments this year. All of the federations were informed of the delay and that would have really related to the fact that for the first time at the end of the fiscal year, we got a new minister and a PS (permanent secretary) at the same time, both of whom needed to be educated about the programme,” said Munnings.
“That was explained to the federations. They were understanding and most of them indicated that they would have informed their athletes, some did not, which caused for their athletes to be confused as to what was happening. That process is now complete. Both Minister and PS, who had taken leave, are back and they have signed off on it and everything has been processed, so the athletes should be compensated.”
Although track and field has the lion’s share of the pie, Munnings said athletes from eight other sports are being subvented.
“We’re trying assist as many athletes as we can.” said Munnings, a former track and field athlete who competed in the men’s 4 x 400 metre relay team that represented the country at both the IAAF World Championships and the Olympic Games. “We have to look at all sports.”
At the end of last year, Munnings said the ministry convened a committee to review the subvention process. “We went on pause because of the transition in government, but that will pick up again because a lot of work has been done and we know that there is still a lot of fine tuning to be done. Once we would have done that, we would introduce it again to the federations for discussion and to the athletes before it is agreed upon in the next fiscal period.”
Track and field, swimming, soccer, judo, boxing, basketball, bodybuilding, tennis and cycling currently have athletes on subvention from $12,000 to $34,000 a year. Once the committee makes its recommendations, Munnings said some of the athletes may not be reconsidered and others added and some figures could increase or be reduced based on the performances by the athletes.
Exorbitant Cost for Stadium
While it was reported in The Tribune on Thursday that the cost of the new Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium had ballooned from the initial price tag of $16.5m in 2014-15 to almost triple to about $43m, the Ministry of Sports is now committed to seeing it come through to completion.
“That increase maybe related to just the incurring cost to the stadium’s inactivity,” he said. “I have not gotten a report as yet from the Ministry of Works as to what these new numbers relate to, but I expect to get an update from them very shortly.”
And with the work in progress, Munnings said they have not yet had an indication of whether there will be modification to the plans that were laid out for the construction of the stadium before work ceased last year when there was a change in the government.
“Unless otherwise informed, the stadium is a go,” Munnings stated. “Right now, a lot of work has gone into the ground and a lot of payments have been made, so the government is moving forward with the project.”
Munnings admitted that the delay in commencing the work was due in part to a number of factors.
“A part of the structure is being imported from abroad, so they are designed to specifications, which really had to be spot on,” he said. “The structure that is being imported here to be placed on the structure here is being built to specification, so any deviation from the design here will impact the overall building. So a lot of care has taken place to make sure it’s a proper fitting.”
As for the huge budget now targeted for completion, Munnings said they had to make sure of the timely payments of bills and that was prevented because of the change in government, who wanted to review the expenditure of the stadium before continuing with its completion.
The stadium is not projected to be completed within 12-14 months, barring any further delays, according to Munnings. He said the Ministry of Works will have the final say on any further modification or alterations to the stadium that is being done by Woslee Construction, who had fallen into a contractual dispute with the former Progressive Liberal Party government and they ceased work prior to the general election.
New NSA Chairman
With the former general manager of the National Sports Authority position completed at the first quarter this year, Munnings said they issued a public advertisement for his replacement. “A number of applications have been received and are being reviewed by members of the National Sports Authority Board,” he said. “That list was short-listed and candidates have been interviewed for the position.”
In the interim stage, Munnings noted that board member Lester Cox has been bridging the gap for this time and overseeing the day-to-day operation of the stadium. “In short order, it will be announced who the new candidate is whom we have selected for the position,” he said.