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Controversial Taj TV deal cancelled

Minister Lokuge orders after findings of Liyanagama Committee:

Minister of Sports and Public Recreation Gamini Lokuge yesterday ordered to terminate the international television rights agreement signed with Taj Television by the previous Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) Interim Committee, headed by Jayantha Dharmadasa.

Minister Lokuge’s decision was based on the findings of a special three-member investigation committee, headed by the Secretary to the Ministry of Sports and Public Recreation S. Liyanagama.

The other two members of the Review Committee to inquire and report on the agreements dated 30.09.2005 (First Addendum) and 11.01.2007 (Second Addendum) were the Chairman of the National Sports Council Dr. Maiya Gunasekera and B.L.H. Perera.

The Review Committee was asked to investigate on the circumstance under which the controversial agreements were executed, to find whether there was any malpractice or irregularity or non-compliance with regard or disregard of proper procedures and find out whether any financial loss was thereby caused to SLC and several other matters.

Chairman of the SLC Interim Committee, Arjuna Ranatunga, when contacted by the ‘Daily News’, confirmed that the television rights deal was cancelled by the Sports Minister.

“The Sports Minister has taken the decision after an investigation by a special committee appointed by him. We will inform the cancellation to the SLC Interim Committee which will meet on Thursday (today),” Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning captain said.

Ranatunga said the decision would cancel the new agreement which signed for TV rights for home matches from 2009 to 2012. He said the current agreement with Taj Television would expire by the end of this year.

“We will inform Taj Television about the ruling given by the Minister and will have to call for fresh bids thereafter,” Ranatunga said yesterday.

With reference to the Responsibility for Financial loss, the 26-page committee report to the Sports Minister said the SLC Interim Committee head “Jayantha Dharmadasa and Duleep Mendis (CEO) have executed the said agenda dated 30th September, 2005 and 11th October 2007 without obtaining approval of the Sports Minister (except for the matching rights for 2009-2012) without obtaining any legal advice or consulting the In-House lawyer, without following the proper procedure, and ex-facie without any proper approval the Interim Committee.”

The report said Dharmadasa and Mendis “were likely the only persons who were privy to the contents of the said Addenda and as the signatories thereof on behalf on the SLC Interim Committee, they are directly and primarily responsible for the financial loss, if any, caused to the SLC”.

In its findings and suggestions, the high-powered three-member committee has suggested to call for fresh bids.

“In the interests of cricket in Sri Lanka and its future development, we recommend that a transparent and open bidding process be initiated with regard to the broadcasting rights for 2009 onwards in keeping with the ICC future programme,” the committee members have said.

“Having perused the documentation to above and on the completion of inquiring into the matters referred to the above, we are of the view that ex-facie there is material evidence that two Addenda are tainted with irregularities the part of the SLC Interim Committee and can be impeached.

We find that the Interim Committee can be directed to cancel the above Addenda forthwith and to inform Taj Television accordingly,” the report’s findings added.

The three-member committee has also directed to refund any sums that Taj Television may have paid in terms of the First Addendum in the event it is cancelled.

“Taj should also be informed that their rights under the original agreement will continue to be in force until 31.12.2008,” it added, However, the committee has said Taj will be entitled to participate in any tender that would be floated by the SLC for future TV rights.

The Committee has also recommended “that a further inquiry to be held vis-a-vis Duleep Mendis, CEO of the SLC IC in respect of his conduct in entering into agreement into the Addenda dated 30.09.2005 and 11.10.2007 without the approval from the Sports Minister or any legal advice as he continues to be the CEO to-date”.

“We recommend further inquiry of the members of the Interim Committee of the SLC at the time of execution of these Addenda. We are not recommending any other action against Jayantha Dharmadasa since he is no longer a member of the IC and leave the matter for the discretion of the Minister,” the report added.

 

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