Thursday, August 06, 2015

"There is no discrepancy"

Hello everybody. Do you remember this posting from back in April? It involved the ill-fated English Seniors' Championship of 2014 and a whole variety of problems that arose out of it, of which one in particular was causing me confusion.

I'd asked the ECF's Chief Executive Officer, Phil Ehr, whether the ECF had offered any financial support to the event, a question I originally asked on November 4 2014. It took two months and two reminders to get a reply, but on January 7 2015 Phil replied, saying the following:

The ECF contributed £1000 towards the prize fund and this amount was paid out.

The reason for my confusion was that I'd seen the prize list for the event, and as only £750 had actually been paid out in prizes

it was kind of hard to work out how £1000 could have been contributed.

So on January 17 I wrote back, asking:

You say "the ECF contributed £1000 towards the prize fund and this amount was paid out" but my understanding is that only £750 was paid out in prizes. Could you clarify this point?

but as regular (and weary) readers will recall, no reply had been received three months later. Hence my post (and two subsequent ones, linked to below).

Obviously I wasn't over-impressed with this, but what can you do etc, and I'd long since assumed that I'd never get an answer when the ECF announced a question-and-answer session, to the Chief Executive, for Monday 3 August at the British Chess Championships.

So I asked:

And I got an answer.

Skipping the prologue, as it were, it goes much like this:
You got your data from an email from me. The ECF...that email was wrong. So I'll take this opportunity to correct for the record that the ECF did not contribute one thousand pounds towards the prize fund. The ECF contributed seven hundred and fifty pounds to the prize fund. There is no discrepancy. All, I'm convinced all money, has been accounted for, all money was paid out in the prizes and end of story.

However, I know that you're the investigative type of person and if you wish to pursue that I think what the next step might be is to engage someone in counsel, and ask for financial oversight of that event. But it's not really necessary because it's been looked at in all which ways and everything was done, in the end, all money was paid out properly.
Now, if I'd spent seven months ignoring somebody else's attempt to clarify figures which I myself had got wrong, I don't think I'd be making smart remarks about engaging counsel, but OK. That's an answer, isn't it? And it's an answer which includes two important pieces of clarification, one of which is this
The ECF contributed seven hundred and fifty pounds towards the prize fund. There is no discrepancy.
and the other of which is this
all money was paid out in the prizes
which would, on the face of it, appear to establish how much money Phil says was paid, who by, and what it was for, the only difference from his statement in January being the amount concerned. Amount, £750, who by, "the ECF contributed", what for "towards the prize fund". Anything else? Nope, "all money was paid out in the prizes".

That was on Monday 3 August. Late on Tuesday 4 August Sean Hewitt, who organised the 2014 tournament, posted on the matter on the English Chess Forum. His account of the matter was not quite the same as Phil Ehr's. In fact he described Phil's account as "not true".

In the first place, he said that the amount received was £1000, not £750. In the second place, he said that this wasn't ECF money at all, though the ECF was a conduit for the payment. And in the third place the payment was "based on a formula", which was not specified but plainly wasn't restricted to the amount of the prize fund.

On the face of it this contradicts Phil Ehr's statement from Monday on pretty much every level.

Well, it is now sixteen months since the tournament concerned and we still can't get answers that are both straight and reliable to simple questions like "did we pay towards this tournament?" "how much?" and "what for?".


Well, let us try once more. Email, this morning.
Dear Phil

Thanks very much for answering my question while at the British Championships on Monday.

I don't know whether you are aware of this, but since you spoke your account of events has been contradicted by Sean Hewitt, who describes your statement as "not true".

He claims that the sum involved was £1000, and makes no link at all to the prize fund: on Monday you stated that "the ECF contributed £750 to the prize fund" and that "all money was paid out in the prizes".

Moreover Sean insists that this wasn't actually ECF money at all, although it was paid through the organisation.

I wonder if you could explain the various discrepancies between the account you gave on Monday and the account given by Sean the following day. When a tournament organiser is referring to the CEO's statement as "not true", this is quite a serious situation.

And if I don't get a full, straight and believable answer to this one, I'm obviously not going to engage counsel.

I'm just going to say that somebody who cannot give straight and reliable answers to members about financial matters has no business being CEO.

[This is not a folk song I II III]


Anonymous said...

Did you consider Phil might have said 'council' and not 'counsel'?

ejh said...

I've had it suggested to me, but what would "engage council" actually mean? It's simply not a phrase we would use in English. (Agreed, Phil's English is more than occasionally obscure in its meaning, so you can never be sure.)

Anonymous said...

I think it may mean "talk to your representative on council", like you would to your local MP for UK matters.

ejh said...

Maybe, but we don't say "engage MP", do we?

Anonymous said...

We might say engage a committee of MPs or a council.

Anonymous said...

Is it not simple enough? The ECF (or the donor if you prefer) contributed £ 750 to the prize fund and £ 250 to the expenses of the organisers.


ejh said...

Well conceivably, and that explanation does of course come to mind, but if it's true

(a) it conflicts with Phil's statement that "all the money was paid out in the prizes"
(b) in conflicts with Phil's previous claim that "the ECF contributed £1000 towards the prize fund"

both of which have all the money going on prizes and nothing on "the expenses of the organisers".

Moreover, if that's the case, then

(c) Phil could actually say so.

But - if you're right - he can't so say so without having to make a third statement contradicting the previous two both in letter and in spirit.

John Cox said...

He clearly says 'engage someone in council', doesn't he? I.e., get someone in the ECF Council interested so that they can put in train some bureaucratic procedure or other to check up on the finances of this event.

ejh said...

You mean "he clearly says", or "he clearly means"?

Jonathan B said...

^^^ that was our 12,500th published comment.