USA news September 25, 2011

USACA Treasurer says compliance high priority

With USACA general elections scheduled less than a month away on October 15, the issue of member league compliance remains under debate. John Thickett, Treasurer of the USA Cricket Association, says that the organisation needs to finally tackle the issue so that it doesn't continue to fester.

"I'm not signing off on our tax return until the board gets to the bottom of this," Thickett told ESPNcricinfo. "It's particularly concerning in the cases where a league says they've only got eight clubs and they've got 72 for example. If they were to buy insurance, I worry about insurance fraud which is criminal to kind of misrepresent the number of clubs in their league."

Following up on USACA President Gladstone Dainty's promise to bring in an independent auditor to investigate compliance, the Austin, Texas, law office of Robert Chance was retained to investigate and make recommendations to the board on which leagues are compliant and thus which ones may be able to participate in the election. The goal is to complete the review by October 1.

"The president has engaged a lawyer who is an expert in organizational compliance," Thickett said. "He's been communicating with the board recently about his plan to collect this data so we can actually enforce compliance."

This has not gone off without a hitch though. After Chance sent out an email to lay out his plans for a compliance review process, USACA Secretary John Aaron responded by disputing the manner in which Chance was hired. Aaron's contention is that only the five executive members of the board were informed or consulted but not the representatives from the eight USACA regions.

Regardless, Thickett says that the compliance process is not just about deciding who can vote in the election but also to improve financial accountability for the entire organization. In addition to mentioning the insurance fraud claims that could arise, Thickett says that USACA is being shortchanged by its member leagues who fail to pay membership dues for the correct number of member clubs within the leagues.

USACA also received a US$ 25,000 development grant from the ICC Americas office in Toronto last year which USACA divided among the eight regions. Each region had to submit a proposal on how they intended to use the money they were receiving but Thickett says he still has not received a report to document how each region actually used their money.

"This money has been out for many months and when I was talking to the general manager, he still can't get a report from any region how they've actually spent it. We have an obligation to report it to the ICC," Thickett said. "It's somewhat concerning if we give them $3000 for grass roots and it doesn't translate into the programmess or actions that were represented. When we get to doing $100,000, what's going to happen to that money?"

However, Thickett admits that the national body has not set the best example for the regions when it comes to sound fiscal management. He specifically cited the example of exorbitant fees paid to fly players to one destination before a national team leaves for an ICC tournament. Even though there are cases where a squad may contain six to eight players and management members from New York - where USA's teams typically depart from - there have been instances where Thickett says it has sometimes cost between $10,000-12,000 to get an entire team to one departure point due to the fact that tickets are bought on short notice.

"If the cricket committee made decisions on the team sooner, we could do it cheaper. Often the selections by the cricket committee come at the last minute," Thickett said. "I think the Under-15s was a great case in point. My understanding is we were buying tickets a few days before the event for that. I've brought it up in numerous board meetings. We've had discussions about this many times in board meetings. The sooner we can get the teams together, the sooner we can get the tickets."

"The organization is going very much from a mom and pop to much more of a real organization. The national organization has to become more efficient and get better administrators involved in different activities and roles. It extends to the regions as well. They've got to be on top of it as well. I think there's lots of improvement to go all the way around."

Thickett says that over $600,000 has been spent so far in 2011 to prepare national teams for ICC events and to pay for fees associated with domestic tournaments. However, he wants to dispel any rumors circulating that the organization postponed the USACA Men's Senior Nationals from earlier this month due to a lack of funds. Thickett says that money had been set aside for the tournament but that he did not receive a tournament budget to be reviewed for approval.

Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey