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Fifa’s audit head Scala quits as Blatterism turns Infantile

Fifa’s audit head Scala quits as Blatterism turns Infantile

Domenico Scala, Fifa’s head of auditing and compliance and one of the architects of reform at the embattled organisation, resigned in a huff at the weekend following a decision taken by the Fifa Council which seemingly gives Gianni Infantino more power than Sepp Blatter ever had. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

He talked the reform talk, but new Fifa president Gianni Infantino is certainly not walking the reform walk. While his campaign was dominated by talk of transparency and ushering in a new era, it’s increasingly looking like it’s more of the same for Fifa – and it drove Domenico Scala, Fifa’s head of auditing and compliance, to resigning in protest at reforms at the governing body of world football.

Scala’s hand was forced by a decision taken by the Fifa Congress on Friday to remove guarantees of independence. The resolution, passed by 186 votes to one, 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. This means the council, which replaced the executive committee, can fire ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, ethics investigator Cornel Borbely and Scala himself if they so wish.

The sport’s governing body is still trying to recover from the worst scandal in its history and Scala’s resignation is not going to do it much good. Fifa, however, insists that Scala “misinterpreted” the purpose of the decision, saying in a statement: “The decision taken by the Fifa Congress. The decision was made to permit the council to appoint members on an interim basis to the vacant positions of the new committees so they can start fulfilling their roles as part of the ongoing reform process until the next Fifa Congress in 2017. In addition, the measure allows for the swift removal of members who have breached their obligations.”

While that might be the “intention”, there is nothing which stipulates that members must have breached obligations to be removed and no matter how the Fifa PR machine tries to spin it, it seems that the committees’ ability to fulfil their duties independently is limited, at least until next year’s Congress.

Giving executives the power to appoint and dismiss investigators is deeply troubling and smacks of the Blatter era of buddy-buddy appointments. But it goes even further than that. Blatter never had the power to dismiss independent members willy-nilly. Infantino is after all the president of the newly formed Fifa council so he can do as he pleases.

Scala said in a statement: “The Fifa Congress has delegated the election, or the dismissal respectively, of the members of the independent supervisory bodies – such as the ethics committee, the appeal committee, the audit and compliance committee and the governance committee – to the exclusive competence of the Fifa council.

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.

Thereby, those bodies are factually deprived of their independence and are in danger of becoming auxiliary agents of those whom they should actually supervise. I am consternated about this decision, because it undermines a central pillar of the good governance of Fifa and it destroys a substantial achievement of the reforms. For this reason, I herewith declare my immediate resignation as president of the audit and compliance committee of Fifa.”

Scala was not alone in his criticism of Fifa with Mark Pieth, a Swiss criminal law professor who has led reform drives at FIFA, telling AFP that Infantino has “dropped the mask of a reformer” and is “showing his real motives and his real personality”.

The professor added that the decision is “falling back to the worst times of Blatterism”.

Pieth is a close ally of Scala and allaged that he was pushed to resign by Infantino because Scala questioned his proposed salary. Scala sat on the remuneration committee tasked with recommending Infantino’s pay. That amount is yet to be decided.

Sources suggest that the remuneration committee put forward that Infantino be paid $2-million, without the prospect of any bonuses, and the Fifa president refused to sign the contract. If true, that amount is far less that the $3.7-million his predecessor Blatter was receiving. Fifa dismissed this claim, too, and said in a statement that it was “concerned” that “certain individuals may be seeking to advance their own agenda to the detriment of football, making claims that are baseless and without merit”.

Infantino said in his congress speech on Friday that Fifa’s corruption crisis was over. “Fifa is back on track,” he told delegates. “So I can officially inform you here, the crisis is over.”

However, Scala’s resignation has dealt a fresh blow to those claims. Just three months into his presidency, this kind of debacle is the last thing Infantino needs.

Scala is highly regarded and seen as one of the chief engineers of Fifa’s reform. The decision to hand so much power to the Fifa council is deeply troubling at a time when the embattled governing body should be showing that they have learnt from their mistakes. The council was meant to wield even less power than the executive committee it replaced, but that has not happened.

Infantino raised further eyebrows by appointing Fatma Samoura as Fifa’s first ever woman secretary-general. The 54-year-old, a Senegalese UN official with no previous experience in sport, does have plenty of experience in managing big budgets and diplomacy – 21 years at the UN is nothing to he scoffed at, but some members raised concern about her not having enough experience within the game, or connections with the game’s leading administrators.

Samoura does bring some diversity to the organisation, but she was appointed by the council on Infantino’s recommendation and not by all the 211 members. Diversity is a good thing, but so is democracy, and Samoura must hope that her appointment is not done simply for Infantino’s window-dressing purposes.

Scala’s exit, though, rocked the boat and could potentially undermine the credibitly of Infantino’s so-called “new Fifa”, especially if it prompts further resignations. DM

Photo: Domenico Scala (L), chairman of the FIFA Audit & Compliance Committee, talks with an unidentified man at the FIFA Headquarters ‘Home of FIFA’ in Zurich, Switzerland, 02 December 2015. EPA/WALTER BIERI

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