New FAI role for Delaney was created only after loan discovery

FAI officials appear before committee but ex-ceo cites legal obstacles to answering questions

John Delaney has told an Oireachtas committee that legal advice he has received precludes him from answering questions on the about a controversial €100,000 payment he made to the FAI. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

The Football Association has 24 separate bank accounts, but its day-to-day financial transactions are conducted through only one account, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

Officials form the association told Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien that 11 of those accounts were connected to Educational Training Board requirements. It was disclosed that only one account had an overdraft facility and its limit had never been breached.

The Committee for Transport, Tourism and Sport is examining the governance of the FAI, in the context of a €100,000 loan made by former chief executive John Delaney to it in April 2017. The loan, which breached State funding conditions, led to a suspension of funding from Sport Ireland.

FAI president Dónal Conway also disclosed a review of senior roles that led to the creation of a new position of senior vice president was only commenced after The Sunday Times made enquiries about the loan in March this year. It was completed within a matter of weeks, with Mr Delaney being appointed without interview.

The former chief executive did not answer any questions relating to the loan, or on his previous role. Members of the committee repeatedly asked questions surrounding the terms of the review of senior roles, and about who sanctioned an erroneous statement in March, but officials were not able to supply complete answers.

FAI president Donal Conway giving evidence at the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. Photograph: PA
FAI president Donal Conway giving evidence at the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. Photograph: PA

Members expressed frustration about the answers amid constant warnings about the impact of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Angela Kerins case, which challenged the manner in which the Public Accounts Committee questioned the former chief executive of Rehab.

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger said Wednesday’s hearing would reinforce people’s cynicism.

“You have given the most minimal answers… Mr Delaney is here physically but it’s Hamlet without the Prince because he has not answered any questions,” she said.

“The public should be aware of how toothless we have become because of legal threats.”

Asked by Fianna Fáil TD Kevin O’Keeffe about how the organisation’s director for finance had responded in 2017 when Mr Delaney had asked should his €100,000 be reported, Mr Delaney said that this was the subject of ongoing reviews by consultants Mazars and, separately, Grant Thornton.

Fellow Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy said: “You are hiding behind the Grant Thornton report and the Mazars report.”

Several times during the course of the afternoon, committee chair Fergus O’Dowd warned members that the line of their questioning must stay firmly within the remit. He said the Supreme Court in the Kerins case had commented on the role of the chair and the need to observe due process.

Mr O’Dowd, however, also told the FAI it needed to start thinking about “regime change”.

Mr O’Dowd asked Mr Conway three times if the organisation was willing to allow a forensic audit of its governance and accounts. Mr Conway responded that two very thorough examinations were being conducted by Mazars and by Grant Thornton.

In the minutes before the committee broke for lunch, Mr O’Dowd said: “You need to think about regime change in the afternoon (session).”

Independent senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh said it was “frustrating we are barred from asking relevant and important questions” to officials, while Mr Troy made harsh criticism of the responses made by delegates.

“Why can you not be honest and upfront with the general public, who have a right to know, on how corporate governance is administered?” he asked.

Mr Troy was particularly critical of the failure of the FAI to identify the person who sanctioned the statement which inaccurately suggested that the board was fully aware of the loan.

Mr Conway denied this was the case. “ I did not set out to show any disrespect. I didn’t come here with the attitude that we do not care what members think.

“If it’s about contracts or employees or commercially sensitive or individual creditor, if that’s called evasive I have no option in that (regard).”

Mr Ó Céidigh said he found it “incredibly unusual” the board was not made aware of the loan at the time it was made in April 2017, and further that it was not noted in the annual accounts of the FAI.

He said that under the Companies Act, the FRS102 required disclosure of related party transactions. He noted the FAI had got a clean audit.

In his statement, Mr Delaney said he asked the then director of finance of the FAI in 2017 did he have any reporting obligation when making the loan. However, committee members have not been able to question him about the statement as he said he was not prepared to elaborate on what was contained in the statement.

At the outset of the hearing, Mr Delaney said “some members of this committee have made highly prejudicial public pronouncements about me personally” prior to his appearance, and he asked the committee to respect his position in light of the recent Kerins case.

The Supreme Court is currently considering its final decision on a case taken by Ms Kerins against the State and the PAC. It has already decided the PAC acted outside its jurisdiction in its conduct of hearings into the Rehab affair.

Committee members repeatedly questioned the FAI delegation about the report into senior roles in the organisation that led to the creation of Mr Delaney’s new position of executive vice president.

 

The committee heard that Jonathan Hall and Associates was commissioned in early March and Mr Delaney was appointed to the position recommended by the report on March 23rd, immediately after its conclusion.

Senator John O’Mahony established from Mr Conway that no member of the two governance committees formed by the FAI are truly independent of the organisation, as one is internal and the two external members on the second committee have links with the FAI.

Mr O’Mahony asked Mr Delaney had he committed to taking two independent members onto the FAI board after the Genesis Report into the crisis that arose in Saipan in 2004. Mr Delaney said he had never said that. He said that after Genesis, the FAI had successfully reduced the board from 23 to 10.

“To reduce it from 23 to 10 practically overnight was a well achieved target”,” he said.