THE TASK of reforming FIFA has been dealt a serious blow after its audit chief quit the scandal-hit football governing body, having seen a resolution passed which he claimed undermines the independence of its watchdog committees.
The resolution, passed by 186 votes to one by the FIFA Congress, gave the FIFA Council power to appoint or “dismiss any office holders” of its independent bodies such as the ethics committee and the audit and compliance committee. As a result, audit and compliance chief Domenico Scala has confirmed he will step down.
It effectively gives the council, which has replaced the former executive committee and is headed by the new FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, the right to fire ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, ethics investigator Cornel Borbely and Scala himself, Reuters reports.
Scala said the new rule “undermines a central pillar of the good governance of FIFA and it destroys a substantial achievement of the reforms”.
He added: “It will henceforth be possible for the council to impede investigations against single members at any time, by dismissing the responsible committee members or by keeping them acquiescent through the threat of a dismissal.
“The bodies are factually deprived of their independence and are in danger of becoming auxiliary agents of those whom they should actually supervise.”
For its part, FIFA later said that Scala had “misinterpreted” the decision and the committees would remain independent.
“The council fully respects the independence of the audit and compliance and the ethics committees, and any suggestions to the contrary are without merit,” it said.
FIFA is in the process of recovering from the biggest corruption scandal in its history, with Scala seeking to implement an eight-part reform programme announced in September, including a limiting the tenure of the president and the executive committee to three terms of four years.
Alongside term limits, Scala put forward plans for improved integrity checks for executive committee members and those in key FIFA bodies; direct election for executive committee members by congress; individual disclosure of remunerations, income and compensation for key FIFA figures, improved independence of standing committees, avoiding conflicts of interest; improved levels of governance at confederations and member associations; revised World Cup bidding proposals; improvements with regard to structure and decision-making.
The ethics committee, which was reformed in 2012, has played a key role in cleaning up FIFA. It has investigated and banned more than a dozen top officials for ethics violations.
These have included former president Sepp Blatter and ex-secretary general Jerome Valcke as well as former executive committee members.
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