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Dealing with corruption in Ghana football – An urgent need

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The President of FIFA Sepp Blatter says he wants to set up an anti-corruption committee to police the world football governing body.

Mr. Blatter would have us believe that he wants to lead us into “a new age of transparency” at FIFA following the recent furore over the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments respectively.

The FIFA boss was speaking to a Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung as he continues his campaign to defend the football governing body after a strong public backlash.

The pessimists will still consider the move as another attempt to throw dust into the eyes of the world, and would wait for further clarifications on the powers and objectives of the new anti-corruption body.

The fact remains though that FIFA is looking at having an internal mechanism to investigate corruption within its own corridors after a major storm.

Given the perceptions of corruption that hound the Ghana Football Association, will they take a leaf from what the FIFA boss is proposing in order to eradicate such concerns?

The Ghana situation

Ghana football seems to be recovering slowly from the shock of the raid on its offices by the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) late last year.

For neutrals, news about the visit of the President of the Ghana Football Association Kwesi Nyantakyi and his General Secretary Kofi Nsiah to the EOCO office last week came as a welcome relief.

The meeting confirmed earlier reports from the corridors of power that the two bodies had started engaging in healthy discussions after the infamous raid on the GFA’s headquarters on December 8, 2010. And this might just signify a thawing of relations between the two bodies, at least hopefully.

The people of Ghana and the world at large can only wait with baited breath to see what the final outcome of the investigation will be into alleged breaches of the nation’s tax and financial laws.

But wait a minute, let’s not count our chicks before they hatch, because it will be better to look at the bigger issue of corruption in Ghana football and see whether the FA’s internal mechanism for checking the canker is actually working.

Ketu Stars petition GFA

The owner of Ketu Stars, Abdul Kadiri Aleru on November 25, 2010 petitioned the Ghana Football Association to investigate the alleged “rot in the running of the game in our great Volta Region by the Regional Football Association (VRFA).”

The petitioner is asking for the accounts of the Regional Football Association to be audited since according to him the RFA has never presented audited accounts for the past nine years, in breach of the GFA’s statutes.

According to Abdul Kadiri, an attempt by the RFA to pass a “bogus” account at the Association’s last Congress on November 4, 2010 was rejected by members of congress.

The petitioner, it seems, is alarmed at the lack of sports development in the region especially football.

When contacted, the chairman of the Volta Regional Football Association Francis Dogbatse admitted that his outfit has not been able to present audited accounts since 2001 due to the high cost of auditing.

Mr. Dogbatse, who got re-elected as RFA boss in 2005, claims that the last Congress accepted the accounts of the Association on condition that subsequent accounts will be audited.

“The past has been wronged but congress decided to let this one go and subsequently try to rectify it,” he said.

It is noteworthy that under the GFA statutes, Article 49.5 says an RFA “shall hold Annual Congress of representatives of its constituent members to receive and consider among other matters, reports of the Regional Executive Committee including audited financial statements.

The Volta Regional Football Association situation might not be an isolated case at all because there have been other reported cases like that in the recent past, for instance in the Eastern Region.

The petitioner Abdul Kadiri Aleru has copied his petition to the Economic and Organised Crimes Office as well as the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

GFA’S anti-corruption agencies

So are the FA’s internal anti corruption processes full-proof?

There is no direct answer to the question posed above.

Firstly, under Article 38 of the FA statutes the FA’s judicial organs comprise the Disciplinary Committee and the Appeals Committee.

Article 42 gives the Dispute Resolution Committee the power to resolve internal disputes while the International Court of Arbitration for Sports is recognised as an independent judicial authority whose decision the FA respects.

Members of the football family however have the right to call for an emergency congress where necessary to discuss issues such as corruption when the need arises.

The FA’s accounts are similarly audited at the end of each accounting year to allow for proper scrutiny of how monies are spent at the local football governing body.

It would seem that the FA judicial machinery is well positioned to deal with most of the issues at hand.

Weaknesses

But, all is not well at the GFA despite the existence of the above structures.

The management letter on the accounts of the FA between the period 2007-2009 did recognise that there are weak financial controls at the FA.

For instance, it had to take the direct intervention of the auditor for unaccounted imprest to be returned to chest despite earlier memos to that effect by the accounts department of the FA.

It is possible that an anti-corruption unit can notice these flaws and apply the right measures to rectify them before the accounting period ends.

Division league clubs nearly boycotted the league over the slow pace of the disciplinary committee in coming out with a verdict on the bribery case involving center referee Musa Yahaya who was caught in the act with GH¢2,000 in his socks during a game last season.

The clubs smelt a rat as to the reason why the case is yet to have been heard.

Again there could be a special role for an anti-corruption unit to check bribery in the domestic league.

Several allegations about alleged corruption in the local premier league by club administrators in the past have not been investigated because of the difficulty involved in getting hard evidence to substantiate the claims.

There is no telling when such allegations will seize but they go a long way in informing the perception about corruption in Ghana football.

To sum up, having an anti-corruption unit itself might not necessarily solve all the problems bedeviling Ghana football, but the role of such a body is very crucial.

Is Kwesi Nyantakyi going to call for the formation of an anti-corruption unit? I’m not so sure about that, but it surely would send a great message to the football fraternity if he did.

By  Erasmus Kwaw

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