Domenico Scala was ratified as the Chairman of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee a year ago, and on Friday is set to be formally elected for the first time. He was put forward for his role by Mark Pieth, Chairman of the Independent Governance Committee (IGC), with the two known to each other through their academic connections in the Swiss city of Basel.
“A lot has been written, and a lot has been said about FIFA and corruption” said Scala, “and one of my first senses when I took up my position was the frustration inside FIFA.”
At the FIFA Congress in Zürich on 1 June 2011, FIFA’s President Joseph S. Blatter pledged to “tackle the problems that football faces today and show that our game remains solid and strong” after his re-election.
“A two-year process to overhaul a global organisation like FIFA is quite ambitious, and normally corporate organisations – and I have worked for a few which are similarly complex – do not achieve this in such a limited timetable” continued Scala. “More than twenty of the recommendations for reform proposed by the IGC have been approved, but till now, this hasn’t been fully recognised or appreciated” he added.
Within the last two years, a third of the FIFA Executive Committee membership has changed, either as a result of sanctions imposed by FIFA, or individuals stepping down from their posts. “Rarely have I seen this occur anywhere else” said Scala. “The implementation of the FIFA Ethics Committee with its two chambers is quite unique. They have complete freedom, and I have never seen a similar Committee with such powers anywhere else. We now have someone like Sunil Gulati appointed to the FIFA Executive Committee who himself was a member of the IGC (he resigned his post on being elected to the Executive Committee). That pleases me, as he is very much a promoter of governance.”
At the conclusion of the 2012 Congress, a circular letter (1314) was sent to all FIFA’s 209 member associations outlining the main duties of the Audit and Compliance Committee, including ‘ensuring the completeness and reliability of the financial accounting, as well as reviewing the financial statements, the consolidated financial statement and external auditors’ report.’ Furthermore, the Committee was also tasked with conducting integrity checks for the different positions for both chambers of the Ethics Committee. But what did Scala think his tangible achievements have been?
“I said last October already that FIFA’s financial reporting standards are very high and that they have met international accounting standards already since 2002. But there was certainly room for improvement. There is a perception for example that FIFA does not pay taxes in Switzerland. That is wrong. Yes, FIFA deals with lots of money and is a complex economic entity, but in 2012, FIFA paid $17m USD in taxes.
“I hope on Friday that the Congress will appoint an independent female Vice-Chair, Sindi Mabaso-Koyana from South Africa, a very strong candidate who I put forward myself. In the next two days, an extensive charter - ‘FIFA’s Organisation Regulations’ (FOR) - will be published too. This is 52 pages, and outlines the conduct expected of all FIFA’s different bodies, with an Annexe dedicated to integrity checks. In addition, a new Sub-Committee will focus on Compensation and Remuneration. This will also include a third independent person - Jean-Pierre Pedrazzini of Egon Zehnder - the Chairman of the Finance Committee, and me.”
In March this year, amended regulations were approved for FIFA’s Development programmes, and Scala highlighted this as another major step forward.
“We want to have FIFA money used for the intended purpose and ensure that budgeted monetary amounts are utilised properly. I have attended all FIFA Development Committees and it’s clear that in the last 10-12 years, substantial revenues generated by FIFA have been invested in its development programmes. Where there’s more money, there’s always more risk.”
FIFA has already increased its annual audit of member associations, increasing from 10 per cent to 20 per cent, those who are audited each year, with much stricter guidelines now set in order for associations to receive Financial Assistance Programme (FAP) or Goal project funds.
One of the most documented development projects in the international media in recent years is the Centre of Excellence in Trinidad. On this topic, Scala was unequivocal in his answer. “The CONCACAF Integrity report was not good reading, and what happened, was seriously wrong. I have complimented Jeffrey Webb on the decision to publish the Integrity Report, but it is an embarrassment. This was discussed again at the Finance Committee on Monday with all the Confederation Presidents. It cannot happen again. We need a change of attitude and behaviour.
“I believe that I can help FIFA, and although Friday’s Congress is seen by many as the end of a two year process, we will continue to make proposals in future if things need to be changed.
“People tend to be ‘Euro-centric’ in their views of FIFA, but it’s a global organisation. I have never been blocked, and I have always received any information that I’ve requested. But it’s an illusion to think you can change everything from Friday to Monday. You are realistically looking at a period of 3-4 years, but the bottom line is that the glass is more than half full.”