Financial irregularities in African soccer exposed by audit

Financial wrongdoing across African soccer has been unearthed in a confidential audit of the continent’s governing body that raises concerns about the legitimacy of millions of dollars of payments to executives and national associations.

The Associated Press on Saturday obtained a copy of the private forensic review of the Confederation of African Football that was undertaken by financial services firm PwC during FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura’s six-month spell effectively running the troubled body.

The report, which is more than 50 pages long, covers the period 2015-2019 and the presidencies of Issa Hayatou and successor Ahmad, who remains in power.

FIFA remitted $51 million to an Egyptian-based bank account between 2015 and 2018 as part of its “Forward Programme.” By Dec. 18, 2018, $24 million had been disbursed across the continent and $10 million of this — amounting to 40 payments — was reviewed and investigated.

PwC found $4.6 million from 14 payments had “no or insufficient supporting documentation to determine the beneficiary, purpose, and benefit for CAF.” The auditors said they could not find the purpose of the payment, the ultimate beneficiary or evidence the cash had been received in some cases.

Another $3.6 million accounting for 21 payments was “considered unusual or deemed higher risk,” the report said. Only five payments of those scrutinized — amounting to $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. “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.”

The large number of cash payments concerned PwC, which said they resulted in “little or no audit trail to verify if the cash has been spent legitimately or not.” It noted the round sum of $215,000 spent during a general assembly meeting in Ethiopia in March 2017.

“Lack of key financial controls and absence of segregation of duties in day-to-day financial operations was observed during the review,” PwC found. “Often a single employee would have the authority to, and have executed, conflicting duties such as approving expenditure, receiving of goods and services, and approving payments.”

The report outlined payments to members of the CAF executive committee from the governing body for gifts, donations and even a funeral.

“No supporting documents could be provided for review,” the report said.

The report found that CAF appeared to pay around $100,000 for 18 people including its president, Ahmad, to travel to a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

“CAF stated that the cost of travelling of 18 people between their home countries to Egypt was booked as ‘official expense’ towards organizing a meeting at Egypt and the cost of traveling between Egypt and Saudi Arabia was taken by CAF’s president personally,” the report said. “However, CAF could not provide any documents to support that an official meeting was organized in Egypt during this time. It is to be noted that the presumed costs of travel between Egypt and Saudi Arabia is in the range of $20,000 – $30,000 higher than the actual reimbursement made by CAF’s President”

Ahmad could not be reached for comment. FIFA declined comment.

FIFA convinced CAF to accept Samoura in a role of General Delegate for Africa last year in an attempt to clean up the confederation. CAF did not extend her mandate last week but FIFA said her involvement in the governing body had helped to “accelerate the implementation of the reform process.”


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