The FIFA Forward programme was adopted by the FIFA Congress in May 2016 and represents the first act by FIFA President Gianni Infantino to increase the dividends paid out to its 211 member associations and 6 confederations annually, in-keeping with his campaign pledges.
Africa however, received an additional $12 million dollars in that period which somehow can be linked to disbursements of a million dollars annually to each of the 6 African Zonal Unions (CECAFA, COSAFA, WAFU A, WAFU B, UNAF and UNIFFAC).
It would be great to note that only Africa (out of all the other FIFA Confederations) has this phenomenon of Zonal Unions.
FIFA Forward 1.0. became the first phase of disbursements for the cycle 2016 – 2018 and would later be bumped up to FIFA Forward 2.0. which started in January 2019 and would run for 4 years through December 2022.
Obviously, in the FAs and Confederations that have sense, this would mark an great injection of funds for development activities, which in turn would create a loop where it would spur football growth and fan interest, further cementing corporate confidence in the game, and so on.
Not so with the African Confederation, and its Member Associations and Zonal Unions. These African Football leaders seem like one character from Chinua Achebe’s international best seller, Things Fall Apart…
“Unoka (Okonkwo’s father) always said that whenever he saw a dead man’s mouth he saw the folly of not eating what one had in one’s lifetime. Unoka was, of course, a debtor, and he owed every neighbor some money, from a few cowries to quite substantial amounts”.
African Football leadership apparently has never seen a football dollar they did not want to pocket.
How FIFA Forward 1.0 grants were structured for Member Associations
Some African FAs attempts to pocket this money have bordered on the absurd as illustrated by the banal scheme that was executed by the Kenya FA and its President Nick Mwendwa.
Kenya FA, the failed hosts of the 2018 CHAN Tournament, convinced FIFA of the huge demand for broadcast production services in their country, following the departure of continental sports broadcaster SuperSport.
They made the case that the gap left behind by this departure, created an opportunity where the Kenya FA could acquire one of the decommissioned SuperSport OB Vans, employ former SuperSport employees on short contract to carry out the productions and in so doing, cash in on all the sports codes that needed the services and were willing to pay for it.
Eventually, the FIFA Development Committee approved this request and prepared to make the funds available in-keeping with the stipulated FIFA Forward funds regulations.
The supplier, an English company by the name WTS Media Group Limited, was thereafter paid a sum of $1.25 million on behalf of the Kenya FA by FIFA, but by late 2019 had not delivered the OB Van.
Worse still, the company (WTS Media Group) had been placed under administration in April 2019 and the duo of Martha Thompson and William Matthew Humphries Tait of BDO LLP appointed the Joint Administrators of the Company.
One of their first official acts was to declare the Kenya FA an “unsecured creditor” which implies that it would take a court process in England to recover this money, if at all.
In their case, Kenya FA stand at the back of the line behind “secured creditors” and would only be considered from the remains of the entire process.
The long and short of it all is that $1.25 million Development funds meant for an extremely poor, 3rd-World Football Association, which was to support Kenyan women and youth, disappeared like a whiff of smoke in a moderate wind.
In Cairo, CAF opened a specific Bank account to handle the funds relating to the FIFA Forward grants at the Societe Arabe Internationale De Banque (SAIB).
By 4th of April 2019, the bank statement indicates that CAF held $39.4 million in this account, which remained the same (no deposits or withdrawals) by the time that former Finance Director Mohammed El Sherei was forced out on 15th May 2019, and FIFA SG Fatma Samoura took over at CAF on 1st August 2019.
Let us refresh your memories, that FIFA Forward grants for Confederations replicate the same model used for individual MA’s around the World, in that these funds cannot be used for operational expenses, but only for pre-identified and pre-agreed projects, like the case of the ghost OB Van for the Kenya FA.
In CAF, there had been a committee that would approve what those FIFA Forward funds would be used for and included the self-same Mohammed El Sherei and former communications head Junior Binyam.
It was the refusal of both El Sherei and Binyam to sign off on the payments for Tactical Steel that led to their indictments by the CAF President himself.
In 2016 when the FIFA Forward rules were initially published, former CAF President Issa Hayatou, knowing very well the propensity of his member Associations and CAF Exco for sticky fingers, had rejected the FIFA Forward grants, arguing (quite rightly, in retrospect) that accepting these grants would mean that CAF cedes control of the organization to FIFA.
Hayatou was vindicated slightly more than 2 years after his departure by the hostile takeover of CAF by FIFA and the installation of FIFA SG Fatma Samoura as General Delegate for a period of 6-months, during which time FIFA commissioned an audit of CAF Finances to global audit firm PWC.
Back to the money though, both FIFA and PWC have confirmed that CAF account at SAIB received $ 51 million in FIFA Forward funds, and the bank account is set up in such a way that the only way money can be withdrawn from it is with an accompanying approval from the FIFA Secretary General, in this case Fatma Samoura.
By the time of El Sherei’s departure in May 2019, there had been an expenditure of $ 11.6 million from the account, meaning that some of the payments relating to Tactical Steel came from this bank account.
This means that these payments were made by bypassing the local Cairo accounts office and approval committee, and was dealt with directly between CAF President Ahmad Ahmad and FIFA SG Fatma Samoura.
Which brings us back to tying up loose ends in the PWC report, if only $11.6 million dollars had been withdrawn from the FIFA Forward funds account at SAIB bank, and PWC has confirmed that a total of $24.5 million was misappropriated by CAF, did Fatma Samoura approve the release of payments amounting to $ 12.9 million from this account after she arrived at CAF in August 2019?
Even as the FIFA Ethics committee opens up formal investigations on CAF President Ahmad and his Finance Committee Chairman Fouzi Lekjaa, following the immense pressure from all quarters in the last two weeks, the role of Fatma Samoura in the movement of these funds cannot be allowed to be swept under the carpet.
Asked by an African journalist during the AIPS conference in Budapest two weeks ago about whtether he would take any action on Ahmad and his crew at CAF, Infantino responded that he “hoped that the CAF President realized that I will be tough on corruption”…
In Morocco, Fouzi Lekjaa is running out of excuses to the public after being implicated in this malaise at CAF. When South Africa declined to participate in the recently concluded Futsal AFCON which was held in the disputed Western Sahara city of Laayoune, the Morocco football administration attempted to lay the blame on South African hatred of Morocco.
So too Algeria, who issued a statement against the hosting of the tournament in the disputed territory.
We wonder, when the Ultras from Raja Casablanca, sing anti-corruption chants in the stadiums, alluding to the corruption in football and Government, about the free flow of Hashish from the Ketema region, do they hate their own country?
What of the Ittihad Tangier ultras, do they also hate their country?
Lekjaa has much to answer for both at CAF and also at home where he has seen the expenditure of more than 5 Billion Dirhams ($ 500 million) in a span of 5 and a half years.
There are calls for the Moroccan Magistrates of the court of auditors to take up these enquiries and explain to the Moroccan people how Lekjaa could do such a lousy job of managing CAF funds but somehow done a brilliant job with the finances of the FRMF.
One thing is clear though, in all the financial shenanigans going on at CAF over the last few years, FIFA SG Fatma Samoura was never just an innocent bystander.