Friday 18 October 2019

10 key questions arising from the FAI's meeting with the Oireachtas Committee on Sport

Attending a meeting with the Oireachtas Committee on Sport at Dáil Éireann in Dublin are from left, FAI President Donal Conway, FAI Executive Vice President John Delaney and Fran Gavin, FAI Director of Competitions. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Attending a meeting with the Oireachtas Committee on Sport at Dáil Éireann in Dublin are from left, FAI President Donal Conway, FAI Executive Vice President John Delaney and Fran Gavin, FAI Director of Competitions. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Tony Considine

Following the FAI's Oireachtas hearing today, there is still confusion surrounding the circumstances which saw John Delaney give the FAI a loan of €100,000. Here are key questions that remain unanswered.

1. Why did the FAI introduce two statements that had not been shared with the committee as per standard protocol and why was the statement regarding the €100,000 payment introduced as being a Grant Thornton document not signed or stamped by them?  

Protocol dictates that opening statements and any presented documentation is shared with the Oireachtas Committee in advance to enable the members to prepare questions.

Yet the FAI introduced not one but two new documents at the beginning of the day, necessitating two adjournments. One of these was a document initially introduced by FAI President, Donal Conway as a document prepared with Grant Thornton, which later turned out to have no signature or stamp from the accounting firm on it.

The other was the statement from John Delaney which stated he was "precluded from making any further comments at this hearing in relation to the finances of the Association or my former role as CEO or the €100,000 payment either directly or indirectly".

Why were these documents not shared with the committee before the hearing began?

2. Were there enough funds in the 12 other bank accounts to cover the €100,000 shortfall?

Over the course of the afternoon after questioning from Sinn Fein TD Jonathan O’Brien, it was confirmed that the FAI has twenty-four bank accounts, despite Honorary Treasurer, Eddie Murray, initially indicating that he thought they had one.

In his closing remarks, Fianna Fail senator Mark Daly asked FAI Financial Controller Alex O’Connell if there wasn’t enough money in the other FAI accounts to make up the shortfall. O’Connell responded that he wasn’t with the association at the time and he would have to come back on that.    

3. Why wasn’t the loan recorded in the monthly financial statements of the FAI?

In response to questioning from Jonathan O’Brien, Alex O’Connell said that the loan wasn’t recorded ‘separately’ in the FAI monthly financial statements.

When asked why not, FAI President Donal Conway responded and said “If I’m given time, I’ll establish that exactly for you,’. When asked exactly when he replied “tomorrow”.  

4. Who was the payment that would take the main FAI bank account over its overdraft limit due to?

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock specifically asked Donal Conway “Is the creditor who wasn’t named Dundalk FC?”. Mr Conway stated that was an internal matter in reply.

However, it is on the record that a back-payment of €275,000 for UEFA prize money that had been paid to the FAI was made to the Louth club in three installments during April 2017 within the same timescale the loan was given.

5. What were the terms of credit for that debt? 

Again under questioning from Mark Daly, Mr Conway was asked how long the FAI were aware that a significant bill was coming and asked, “what were the terms of credit related to that specific bill?”

Mr Conway said that the fact that the financial controller of the time lodged the cheque indicated he must have had a concern that a payment would have to be settled but that he couldn't elaborate on the terms of credit related to the bill.

6. Who signed off on the statement of March 18 where the FAI said that “The board of the FAI has been kept fully informed in relation to this matter at all times”?

It emerged during the day after questions from Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy, that three members on the board at the time, CEO John Delaney, Honorary Secretary Michael Cody and President, Tony Fitzgerald were made aware of the loan in April 2017 but the rest of the board were only made aware of it in a conference call on March 16th, 2019.

Yet the FAI statement mentioned above contradicts that response.  Fianna Fail TD Robert Troy asked Mr Conway and later asked Communications Director Cathal Dervan who signed off on that statement but no answer was forthcoming.        

7. Have the cheque stubs relating to the payment from John Delaney to the FAI and the payment back been given to their auditors?

Jonathan O’Brien asked if the cheque stubs involved were passed to the FAI auditors.

“It was transferred into the main bank account,” he said. “I presume as part of the audit, that cheque stub was handed to the auditors. I would assume the money paid back to Delaney in June was from the main bank account so there’d be a corresponding cheque stub.”

There was no answer provided to the committee   

8. Will the FAI commit to an independent forensic audit and if not, why not?

Oireachtas Committee chair, Fergus O’Dowd asked on three occasions if the FAI would commit to “an independent outside forensic audit.”

Mr Conway responded that “Grant Thornton and the Mazars investigations...they will be very thorough examinations of the FAI.” After asking the question a final time to a response referencing the ODCE process currently underway, Mr O’Dowd stated, “I think you have your answer there.”

9. When exactly were Jonathan Hall and Associates appointed and why was that contract not put out to tender?

In relation to the Jonathan Hall report, Noel Rock asked if the report was ordered before the Sunday Times first asked about the €100,000 loan or after. Mr Conway said that it was after but discussion relating to the review had taken place before then.

There were also unanswered questions relating to why Jonathan Hall were appointed without the contract going out to tender.   

10. Why was the date stamp on the PDF of the Jonathan Hall report dated March 23 when the FAI board stated they received the report on March 22?  

Mr Conway stated that the Jonathan Hall report was shared with the board on Friday, March 22nd. But Noel Rock noticed that the copy the committee were sent had a PDF time stamp that shows it was created during the Ireland game against Gibraltar the following day. Were there changes made to the version presented on Friday? 

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