Martin calls for Sport Ireland to conduct ‘forensic’ FAI audit

Taoiseach warns against inquiry that could prejudice potential criminal investigation

Michéal Martin has said that while the Oireachtas committee hearing last week was at some level ‘farcical’ it was also ‘effective’. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Michéal Martin has said that while the Oireachtas committee hearing last week was at some level ‘farcical’ it was also ‘effective’. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Sport Ireland and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) are best placed to carry out an independent audit of the finances of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), the Taoiseach has told the Dáil.

Leo Varadkar said the two organisations could work out the best format but he warned that Sport Ireland did not have the authority to deal with investigations that could lead to criminal prosecutions and might even prejudice such cases.

He added that the FAI was not a state body and its staff were not civil servants.

As controversy continues to convulse the soccer body and Minister for Transport Shane Ross said the entire board intended to stand down. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin highlighted the decision by auditors Deloitte to report to the Companies Registration Office that certain transactions by the FAI were not brought to their attention and could be in breach of the Companies Act.

“It doesn’t get any more serious than that,” Mr Martin said.

There has been been too much cloud to date. We have simply been told nothing,” he said.

Mr Martin said the FAI rightly received large grants of taxpayers’ money and also got a lot of money from the public. He urged an immediate forensic audit by the state agency, Sport Ireland.

Court of opinion

The Fianna Fáil leader said the FAI auditors, Deloitte, had today revealed shortcomings in the organisation’s accounts.

Mr Martin said that while the Oireachtas committee hearing last week was at some level “farcical” it was also “effective” because “the court of public opinion didn’t take too kindly” to the failure to answer questions about the €100,000 loan by the former chief executive John Delaney, which was subsequently repaid.

He said the Irish people through their public representatives were being denied a straightforward explanation about the loan.

The Cork South-Central TD called during leaders’ questions for an independent, forensic audit of the organisation’s finances, without which public funding should not be restored.

Mr Varadkar said he was “broadly in agreement” with Mr Martin. He told him that the Government “shared the “concern of taxpayers, the anger of football supporters and the annoyance of the football grassroots”.

He pointed out that 5 per cent of funds come from Government agencies and go to developments such as women’s soccer and the Euro 2020 championships. He said the State wanted to continue funding, “it is our rule to fund”, but “we can’t do that until accounting and corporate governance problems are put right” at the FAI.

The Taoiseach believed that Sport Ireland, and the ODCE, which has responsibility for funding sports bodies, were best placed to audit the organisation, under company law if there were breaches.

It was best for the two agencies to decide the format of the investigation. But he clarified that “forensic” had two meanings, one of which referred to in depth and in detail and Sport Ireland had a role.

He said however Sport Ireland did not have the authority to conduct criminal investigations or recommend a criminal investigation. But the ODCE could investigate under the Companies Act.