Red lights flash across Africa

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By Robson Sharuko
RED lights have started flashing across Africa, amid fears some football leaders could feast on the US$28 million FIFA cash injection, meant to help stabilise their coffers amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The funds are set to be released this week, and will be handed out to all the 211 members of the world football governing body, in a US$150 million financial outlay across the game.

Each of the 56 African members of FIFA will get US$500 000 each.

Football Associations in good standing with FIFA, in terms of their audits and other considerations like proof funds meant for the women’s game and development programmes actually went towards those projects, would have received the cash injections in July.

Those still in bad standing by July would first have to balance their books, and satisfy all the requirements, before getting the US$500 000 financial injections.

However, the COVID-19 outbreak means that even the dodgy FAs, whose allocation would have been withheld in July, will now receive the funds.

The FAs will still be expected to account for every cent spent, with FIFA outlawing cash payments, because they will need a paper trail during the audits which will follow.

With many FAs reeling from financial challenges, and adopting cost-cutting measures like forcing employees to take pay-cuts, there are fears this injection could lure some officials to dip their pockets into the funds.

ZIFA, for all the challenges they have faced, have been getting their regular injections from FIFA with the man in charge of their finances, Philemon Machana, saying it’s confirmation of the transparency of their financial dealings.

“The audited financials are available for members of the public who might want to check the books,’’ Machana told our sister newspaper, Chronicle.

“People always talk and there’s nothing that can stop them from talking. I don’t abuse FIFA funds. ZIFA doesn’t abuse the FIFA funds and that is why we always get support from FIFA after submitting our budget and accounting for the money received.

“We also have ZIFA financials audited every year.’’

However, there are concerns the funds injected into the African FAs, at a time many of them are having serious operational challenges in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak, might end up being abused.

It’s the first huge cash injection from FIFA, into the African FAs, since an audit carried out by world football governing board unearthed gross irregularities over how funds were abused at CAF.

In Uganda, a cartoonist for a newspaper used the FIFA injection, to draw a cartoon warning the country’s FA leader Moses Magogo, that Big Brother would be watching closely.

Magogo was suspended for two months, and handed a US$10 250 fine by FIFA, for his involvement in the resale of the 2014 World Cup tickets in Brazil.

In July last year, FIFA banned former CAF executive committee member, Mussa Bility of Liberia, for 10 years and slapped him with a US$492 930 fine.

He was accused of allegedly abusing funds raised by the world football governing body to help fight the cholera outbreak in his country.

Bility, who was the Liberia FA boss at the time, is now fighting the ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport and denies the charges.

FIFA said he was “guilty of having misappropriated FIFA funds, as well as having received benefits and found himself in situations of conflict of interest, in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics.’’

The FIFA independent ethics committee found that funds sent to the Liberian FA were being siphoned off and given to businesses connected to Bility and his family.

The forensic audit at CAF raised concerns about the legitimacy of millions of dollars of cash payments distributed to CAF executives, and FAs across the continent, with sparse records to show what the funds were used for.

The explosive report by financial services firm PwC, covering the period 2015-19, found “possible abuse of power” and “potential fraudulent adjustments” in accounting records that were “unreliable and not trustworthy.”

The auditors found very little documentation to account for payments at CAF worth millions of dollars involving questionable contracts, why some family members of the organisation’s leaders were receiving payments and raised the potential of kickbacks and tax evasion attempts.

The investigation of US$10 million of FIFA development funds for Africa, which amounted to 40 payments between 2015 and 2018 found US$4,6 million from 14 payments had “no or insufficient supporting documentation to determine the beneficiary, purpose, and benefit for CAF.”

Another US$3.6 million, accounting for 21 payments, was “considered unusual or deemed higher risk,” while only five payments of those scrutinised — amounting to US$1,6 million — had “sufficient documentation” and were said to have been used for the purpose intended.

“Based upon the procedures performed and documents reviewed, several red flags, potential elements of mismanagement and possible abuse of power were found in key areas of finance and operations of CAF,” the PwC auditors said in the report, a copy of which was seen by the Associated Press news agency.

“Given the serious nature of certain findings and red flags identified from the preliminary due-diligence, we cannot rule out the possibility of potential irregularities.”

CAF were also accused of paying around US$100 000 for 18 people, including their president, Ahmad Ahmad, and Muslim heads of FAs to undertake a trip to an Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

There were also questions related to the “several large procurement transactions” which were handled by the CAF executive committee, or management, while cutting out specialist staff who should have taken control of those dealings.

Under Hayatou’s leadership, PwC found, in the same audit, that indemnities and allowances were claimed by spouses of members of the CAF executive committee, US$100 a day for food.

 

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