Unfair and unwarranted criticism

There is a time and a place for criticism and it should be both given and received with care and consideration. Otherwise, it can degenerate into random mud-slinging which sticks, of course, at random.

The recent insinuations that Cricket South Africa, for example, might be procrastinating and prevaricating over the forensic audit and investigation into its allegedly unusual financial operations and apparently haphazard adherence to King III ‘best practise’ are, at best, premature – at worst, scurrilous.

Lest it be forgotten, it was CSA’s own structure which had an independent auditor in place to spot anything unusual and bring it to the attention of its own audit committee. Such a system is used more as a deterrent than a fail-safe, much like customs officers at an airport, but at least it’s there.

Don Thomas was the customs officer in this case who randomly decided to have a closer inspection of some aspect of CSA’s financial books and subsequently became troubled by what he saw. Up to that point, the system worked just fine.

The problem for CSA and its bosses after that, however, was how to take the process forward. In essence, they then had to become self-policing by appointing a judge and jury to try them, an unprecedented and extremely difficult task.

They began well enough by appointing former judge Pius Langa as head of the investigation team and declaring that the probe into alleged irregularities would begin within a month, starting last week. The problem, however, is that nobody was tasked with running the show thereafter. Nobody had the responsibility of kicking backsides and making sure it actually happened. A couple of days ago Langa still had no idea of his terms of reference for the investigation, where it would be based and when it would begin.

There have been many similar episodes in sport over the decades which have dwindled for months, even years, before finally disappearing but to imply, let alone actually suggest that CSA has that approach in mind today would be grossly irresponsible. They clearly want to the potential embarrassment of the probe resolved as quickly as possible and they also know, better than anybody, that this is not an issue which will either disappear or be swept under the carpet.

Their error, ironically, was probably to push the investigation too hard. Without a clear and coherent team in place to manage it, key witnesses and other administrators will be painfully hard to gather together at a mutually convenient time and place. Testimony will have to be sought by other means, perhaps. They simply had no idea of just how difficult the whole thing was going to be to manage.

But once again, CSA officials have made all the right noises and showed all the willing that could be expected of an organisation in such an awkward predicament. So let’s cut them some slack. It might take three months, even six. Who knows, if there are appeals, denials, protests and questions about evidence, it could take a year.

Better that it gets done slowly than not at all, however, and CSA know that all too well. If anyone at Wanderers HQ has kicked the ball in the rough whilst thinking that nobody was watching, then best they face the match referee and take their punishment. And once again, they have shown every indication of knowing that, too.

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