Tuesday 20 August 2019

ODCE slams Sport Ireland on FAI probe

Corporate watchdog says State body lacks an understanding of ongoing soccer inquiry

FAI President Donal Conway. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
FAI President Donal Conway. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) has criticised Sport Ireland saying the body has a "lack of understanding" about the watchdog's ongoing investigation in to the FAI.

In a letter seen by the Sunday Independent, ODCE director Ian Drennan hit out at Sport Ireland's recent analysis of the watchdog's FAI inquiry. Mr Drennan complained about Sport Ireland's "lack of appreciation of this office's statutory independence". It is part of a war of words after the sports body's chairman Kieran Mulvey told an Oireachtas Committee he would like to see the ODCE move its FAI investigation forward "as rapidly as possible".

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Mr Drennan said the sports body holds a "misplaced presumption" that the results of the ODCE investigation will be made available to Sport Ireland. Depending on the findings of its investigation, his office may initiate civil proceedings or send a file to the DPP. But it does not typically publish investigation "reports", he added.

The corporate watchdog is carrying out a probe into "certain matters" concerning the FAI. The inquiry was launched after it emerged former FAI chief executive John Delaney gave the association a €100,000 loan in 2017. This was followed by concern about spending and corporate governance at the association.

Last week the ODCE was before the High Court seeking to determine if parts of documents held by the football association's auditors Deloitte are legally privileged or if they can be viewed. ODCE investigations are methodical and meticulous but take time, because of the legal processes it goes through during examinations. Speaking at the Oireachtas Sport Committee's meeting on the FAI's affairs earlier this month, Mr Mulvey said of the watchdog: "They don't seem to have the same, you know, deadlines and we're trying to put deadlines on our report, which we have."

He added Sport Ireland needs early deliberation and an early report on the ODCE's enquiry as "whatever they come up with may lead to certain changes being necessary in the way in which the FAI reports its financial and corporate affairs either under the Companies Act, the Code of Governance or whatever".

Mr Drennan has since contacted the committee, expressing concern at the Sport Ireland chairman's comments. His letter included a transcript of Mr Mulvey's remarks.

"The above referenced comments appear to be based on a lack of understanding of both this office's statutory remit and the complex nature of the statutory investigative process," Mr Drennan wrote.

"Those comments further suggest a lack of appreciation of this office's statutory independence as well as a misplaced presumption that the results of this office's investigation might be made available to Sport Ireland.

"There is no basis in law for such a presumption as this office operates under a statutory duty of confidentiality. How Sport Ireland discharges its statutory responsibilities vis-a-vis the FAI is a matter for Sport Ireland and is in no way contingent upon this office's discharge of its entirely separate remit."

Mr Drennan said the ODCE has been in regular contact with Sport Ireland and he was surprised by Mr Mulvey's comments. Mr Drennan then moved to inform committee members its investigations conclude in a different manner to that suggested to TDs and senators by Mr Mulvey.

l An FAI Governance Review Group acting on feedback from staff, stakeholders and the public is also looking at the association's affairs and has recommended an overhaul of structures and the introduction of an interim board. These were put to the association's AGM in Trim yesterday where Donal Conway was returned for a second term as FAI president.

He ran unopposed against the wishes of Sport Minister Shane Ross and Sport Ireland, but assured members he had no intention of remaining in post beyond next year.

Sunday Independent

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