FAI board members’ expenses to be investigated, committee told
Sports Ireland gives details of inquiry as FAI apologises for any ‘disrespect’ to committee
An external investigation into the finances of the FAI will include an examination of expenses claims by former chief executive John Delaney and other board members, an Oireachtas committee has heard.
Chairman of Sport Ireland Kieran Mulvey said the terms of reference for the investigation by auditing firm Mazars were wide and had formed the basis of discussions with the Office for the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), which was carrying out its own investigation.
Mr Mulvey said a senior counsel was involved and Mazars would be examining a wide range of issues, including financial issues. He confirmed to Fine Gael TD Noel Rock that the terms included board members’ expenses.
John Treacy, chief executive of Sport Ireland, which has suspended funding to the FAI pending the completion of the inquiry, said an interim report from Mazars was expected in six to eight weeks but it would be “quite a while” before the final report was completed.
Asked by Fine Gael senator John O’Mahony if that meant it would take a year before funds were restored, Mr Treacy did not hazard a guess but said there was a “lot of work to be done”.
When the Olympic Council of Ireland had its funding suspended, it took nine months before Sport Ireland restored that funding.
Committee chairman Fergus O’Dowd said he was not doubting the professionalism of Mazars or Grant Thornton, which was conducting a separate financial trawl, but said both consultants had been commissioned by the FAI.
Referring to the ODCE investigation, Mr Treacy said it would be extensive and forensic.
FAI letter to Shane Ross
He also told the committee that Mr Delaney was still on the payroll of the FAI, having stepped aside temporarily.
In a letter to Minister for Sport Shane Ross, the FAI said its board would step down in entirety within the next two months, and certainly no later than its annual general meeting in July.
Mr Ross told the committee he wanted the FAI board to stand down sooner than the agm and said there was a need for regime change. He said there would be no release of capital funding for FAI projects until he was satisfied its governance was in good standing.
Mr Ross added Monday’s announcement that Mr Delaney had voluntarily stepped aside pending an “independent” investigation fell far short of expectations.
“While it is the case that due process is hugely important, you will not be surprised to hear me say that I have become increasingly concerned with these developments. Here we have a clear case of the FAI admitting that they failed to abide by the conditions for receipt of State funding.
“We have had a shambolic appearance by the FAI at this Committee last week at which even the most basic questions, for whatever reasons, went unanswered,” Mr Ross said.
“Concerns remain around a financial transaction, basic levels of corporate governance, the creation of the new executive vice president role, issues of a substantial nature being considered by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and other developments that would suggest that all is not well,” Mr Ross said.
‘No disrespect intended’
The Minister read from the letter to him from FAI president Dónal Conway which said the need to reform governance structures “is recognised”, adding: “We have already taken significant action in this regard”.
Mr Conway said he also wished to “apologise to you and your colleagues for any embarrassment caused through the association’s engagement with the Oireachtas Committee in relation to recent controversies. I can assure you no disrespect was intended by me or the association in relation to our engagement at the committee.”
“In relation to board structure, we have engaged with Sport Ireland in relation to both membership of and terms of reference for a new Governance Group which will, amongst other issues, bring forward proposals for the restructuring of the board and other governance requirements.
“We have asked that this group commence work immediately and bring forward recommendations as speedily as possible. It is our intention that recommendations in relation to re-structuring the board will be brought to the membership for their consideration and adoption at our Annual General Meeting in July (or at an Extraordinary General Meeting if the work of the Group facilitates an earlier date).
“At that point, when a new structure has been put in place, it is the intention that the existing board will step down to allow for a new board to be constituted in the best interests of football.”
Mr Treacy said Aidan Horan of the Institute of Public Administration has been nominated as the independent person who will chair the FAI committee on governance reform.
The committee is discussing the crisis that has engulfed the association since the disclosure last month that Mr Delaney made a temporary payment of €100,000 to the FAI in 2017.
Two other long-standing board members, Michael Cody and Eddie Murray, have already resigned.