In early February 2019, a report was released showing that the governing body for soccer, the Confederation of African Football (CAF), in Africa uncovered millions of dollars of financial irregularities. The legitimacy of the millions of dollars concerned cash payments that were distributed to executives and national associations. The review found issues across the board, specifically, the “possible abuse of power” and reported “potential fraudulent adjustments” in accounting records that were suspicious including payments for gifts and organization for a funeral.
The 50-page report, covering 2015-2019, was conducted by PwC, a financial services firm, on request of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). During this time period, the report focused on the presidencies of Issa Hayatou and his successor Ahmad, who remains in power despite an ongoing ethics investigation.
This audit comes at a crucial time as it threatens to bring down its leadership after over a year of turmoil at the organization. In fact, amid accusations last year of financial wrongdoing by former senior executives, CAF agreed to an independent review. Now, the results PwC provided are likely to lead to demands for quick action against CAF’s leadership.
Musa Bility, former head of soccer in Liberia who had called for the audit but was later banned by FIFA for misappropriating soccer funds, said, “I have been left shocked and dismayed, though my fears have now been vindicated.” Bility has yet to deny allegations against him.
The report dug into the details, saying that FIFA had remitted $51 million to CAF from 2015-2018 and, since then, approximately $24 million of that had been disbursed by CAF officials. Furthermore, after reviewing 40 payments totaling $10 million, auditors found just five of the payments, totaling $1.6 million, had enough documentation to confirm what the money would be spent on. The remaining money lacked information that in some cases made it impossible to identify the beneficiaries of the funds.
According to The Associated Press, that obtained a copy of the private report, “The auditors had to grapple with limited documentation to account for payments at CAF worth millions of dollars that raised doubts about the nature of contracts, the need for family members of executives to receive payments, and raised the prospect of kickbacks and tax evasion attempts.” This fact caused the auditors themselves to write that their work was being “stymied.”
Still, auditors concluded, “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…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.”
FIFA has declined to comment on the matter.
However, a week before the revelations, FIFA announced that its secretary general, Fatma Samoura, completed a mission intended to restore order in CAF’s governance. The organization announced, “FIFA is happy that the joint effort made with C.A.F. was done and delivered within the initial proposed time frame and reiterates its commitment to be at the disposal of African football to assist in the process of raising its level to the top of the world.”
The report stands as yet another reminder of the challenges facing the governance of global soccer, which was shaken in 2015 when the U.S. filed an indictment that laid out detailed accusations of years of corruption and wrongdoing by soccer’s most senior officials. Now, it is anticipated that the audit will lead to several new cases for FIFA’s ethics department.
In the meantime, FIFA and CAF announced a joint action plan to take power away from CAF’s board, composed of soccer leaders across the continent who were revealed to had received thousands of dollars in cash without justifiable business reasons.
For more analysis, check ielr.com for a detailed article within the coming days.