As the suspended International Cricket Council (ICC) CEO Manu Sawhney awaits to know his fate, some people who are supporting him have raised 10 pointed questions on contentious issues-from the cost of hiring PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for culture review of the ICC, alleged bending of the rules, to the hint of a conflict-of-interest scenario for an ICC Board member.
Sawhney, originally from India, was suspended on March 9, after an expensive ‘Workplace Culture Review’, or ‘Cultural Assessment Review’, was conducted by the PwC.
Broadly, Sawhney was accused of “targeted acts of bullying against certain [ICC] staff"; of “physical aggression, such as fist banging"; and of having “impacted directly and indirectly on individuals’ health and well-being through [his] behaviour".
The fourth allegation against Sawhney is that he did not “properly report to the [ICC Executive] Board and have implemented decisions or changes without proper consultation with the Board".
Sawhney was appointed ICC CEO in January 2019.
The 10 questions (see below) include one that raises a serious doubt on whether the ICC followed its own procurement rules while hiring PwC to conduct the culture review. Also, the supporters of Sawhney allege that the son of an ICC Executive Board member works for PwC, so that would constitute a possible conflict-of-interest scenario.
The Sawhney ‘camp’ wants to know the role the England and Wales Cricket Board chairman, Ian Watmore, played in engaging PwC for the culture review, and whether the entire ICC Board was consulted, or shown the scope of the review, before hiring PwC.
The people backing Sawhney have also claimed that some ICC Board members, including female independent director Indra Nooyi, had expressed “concern" about the culture review.
The other allegation is that the PWC report, on the basis of which Sawhney was suspended, has not been seen by all those who should have received copies of it. Sawhney claimed even he was given the report reluctantly.
“After repeated requests I was finally provided a copy of the final report issued by PwC on March 15, 2021, seven days after being suspended on March 9, 2021," writes Sawhney in a lengthy statement accessed by IANS.
The supporters of Sawhney alleged that PwC was contracted for $200,000.
In his statement, Sawhney says that ICC Chairman Greg Barclay had “not provided a copy of the “evidence against me" to all the ICC Board members; refused me the assistance of my lawyer at the disciplinary hearing; “refusing to agree to my disciplinary hearing being recorded"; and, “refused" to provide me “sick pay".
“It is abundantly clear to me, as it would be to any reasonable person or bystander, that I am the victim of a premeditated witch-hunt. All pretence at undertaking a fair process or giving me a fair hearing has been completely abandoned," Sawhney wrote.
IANS sent the questions raised by Sawhney’s supporters to the ICC. An ICC executive said: “This issue is still ongoing and as such would be inappropriate to provide any comment."
However, a source in the ICC defended the action taken against Sawhney.
“I can confirm the whole process and scope was approved by the Board and Mr Watmore picked up leading the project after PwC were engaged. You should also note that PwC is a very large organisation and Mr Watmore’s relative works in an entirely different division and this was noted to the Board (along with another Board member) and not considered any conflict," the source said.
Another source said that the verdict in the Sawhney case could be out sooner than later. “Also, please note that the PwC claims 95 per cent of people contacted in the ICC spoke against Sawhney. That can’t be correct - I can say only this much at this stage."
10 questions from the Sawhney ‘camp’:
1 - Why did ICC ignore its own procurement rules when hiring PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to conduct a culture review of the ICC?
2 — What was the role of Ian Watmore, the ECB chairman, in this process and was it an example of good governance to appoint a company without following the ICC tender rules and a company which employed the son of an ICC Board member? Also, why was the ICC Board not consulted nor shown the scope of the review before the appointment was made?
3 - Did some ICC Board members, including female independent director Indra Nooyi, express concern about the cultural review and instruct that the CEO, too, should be closely involved in the review? Why was their request ignored?
4 — Was the scope of the cultural review changed at a later stage and was the ICC Board consulted before the change was made? If true, when, why, and on whose instruction was the review changed?
5 — Have detailed and specific examples of any actions that led to the suspension of the CEO been provided to Sawhney or his legal team? Has the ICC’s $200,000 investigation into the matter been concluded? If so, why have the results not been shared with the entire ICC Board?
6 — Is it true that ICC is conducting an internal investigation into leaking of information, including the outcome of an ICC human resource committee meeting, related to the ICC CEO? What is the status of this probe?
7 — Why was the request by an ICC Board member country to change his vote in the Sawhney case overruled? Will the ICC provide examples of other occasions on which this has happened both in terms of agreeing the minutes and refusing a member country permission to change its vote?
8 — Why was the CEO not invited to the HR and Remuneration Committee meeting and on whose instructions?
9 - Why have the full ICC Board not seen the full report produced by PwC, which was the basis of the suspension of the CEO?
10 - Why have the ICC policies on employment, bullying, harassment, sick leave, grievances, and discipline been ignored so far and on whose instructions? What action is being taken against those who have ignored these policies?