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FIFA audit chief Scala quits over threat to reforms

Mexico City (AFP) – The head of FIFA’s independent audit committee, Domenico Scala quit on Saturday in protest at what he called attacks on reforms of the scandal-tainted world football governing body by its leadership.

Scala is angry at a FIFA Council move to control the nomination of members of independent oversight bodies such as its ethics committee and audit and compliance committee.

The measure was approved on Friday by a FIFA congress, the first under new president Gianni Infantino, who was elected in February promising a new era of transparency.

Scala said the committees had been “deprived of their independence and are in danger of becoming auxiliary agents of those whom they should actually supervise”.

The Swiss official has played a key role drawing up reforms after the scandals that claimed the heads of former president Sepp Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini.

“It will henceforth be possible for the council to impede investigations against single members at any time, by dismissing the responsible committee members or by keeping them acquiescent through the threat of a dismissal,” Scala warned.

Scala said he was “consternated about this decision, because it undermines a central pillar of the good governance of FIFA and it destroys a substantial achievement of the reforms”.

FIFA released a statement in response claiming Scala had misunderstood the measures taken.

“FIFA regrets that Mr. Scala has misinterpreted the purpose of the decision taken by the FIFA Congress,” said the statement. 

“The decision was made to permit the Council to appoint members on an interim basis to the vacant positions of the new committees so they can start fulfilling their roles as part of the ongoing reform process until the next FIFA Congress in 2017. 

“In addition, the measure allows for the swift removal of members who have breached their obligations.

“The Council fully respects the independence of the Audit and Compliance and the Ethics committees, and any suggestions to the contrary are without merit.

“Mr. Scala has made unfounded claims which are baseless. FIFA is focused on reform and the path forward as evidenced by the appointment of a new FIFA Secretary General.”

The FIFA council’s request to take control of nominations to the committees was not part of the reforms agreed at a special congress in February when Infantino was elected.

The ethics committee ordered the six-year suspension against Blatter and a similar punishment against Platini, whose ban has since been reduced to four years.

The committee has also ordered lengthy bans against officials such as Chuck Blazer of the United States and Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago after they were implicated in bribe-taking.

– Tough job for Samoura –

Scala’s resignation came a day after Infantino named Fatma Samoura as secretary general, the first woman and first non-European to become FIFA’s number two.

Samoura, from Senegal, will take over from Frenchman Jerome Valcke, who was sacked last year after being implicated in a scandal over black market World Cup tickets.

With FIFA still the subject of a Swiss criminal investigation and former senior officials facing trial in the United States over huge bribes for television deals, world football’s governing body faces a major task to restore its credibility.

“My goal is to support the programme of president Gianni (Infantino) and to help football restore its tarnished image,” Samoura, a top UN diplomat, told AFP in an interview on Saturday.

Infantino said that Samoura was the “most competent” person to run FIFA’s administration.

Almost a year after police raids that led to the arrest of seven FIFA officials at a congress in Switzerland, Samoura does not face an easy job, made more complicated by Scala’s protest resignation.

Instead of dealing with humanitarian crises for the United Nations, she will now have to make sure that FIFA’s reforms and Infantino’s promises of greater transparency are implemented throughout the organisation.

Tokyo Sexwale, the South African politician and tycoon who was a candidate for the FIFA presidency, said Samoura’s appointment was important more for her ability than for her being African.

“She’s someone who has worked in the system of the United Nations and understands what is required in terms of an executive,” Sexwale told AFP.

“The fact that she is a woman is not number one for me, number one, she must be a human who can be capable.”

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