Sunday 20 October 2019

ODCE officers have started finance probe into FAI affairs

Investigation is under way but may take years to complete as body looks short term

Rea Walshe pictured with John Delaney
Rea Walshe pictured with John Delaney
Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy

Ken Foy, Daniel McDonnell and Ian Begley

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) has already visited the FAI headquarters as part of its investigation into the finances of the organisation, the Irish Independent has learned.

Sources said a number of FAI officials were interviewed when officers from the State's corporate watchdog called to the FAI HQ at Abbotstown in west Dublin.

Last night, sources said the investigation was at a "very early stage" and may take years for the probe to be completed.

It is understood the ODCE has requested a large amount of financial documentation from the FAI.

Sport Ireland has previously said it understood the engagement between the FAI and ODCE was "substantial".

Under the Companies Act, if a statement given to auditors is false, directors who knew it was false or failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the report being approved can be fined up to €50,000 or jailed for up to five years.

Earlier this week, Deloitte filed a notice with the Companies Registration Office stating proper accounting records have not been kept by the FAI.

Auditors Deloitte believes the FAI is contravening section 281 and section 282 of the Companies Act, related to the obligations and requirements to keep adequate accounting records.

It was previously revealed the ODCE has received a detailed protected disclosure outlining a number of new concerns about governance at the FAI.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said there needs to be an investigation into the organisation's financial affairs.

"Investigations are necessary - investigations by Sport Ireland - into the accounts and finances of FAI and it also may be necessary for the ODCE to carry out investigations under company law," said Mr Varadkar, speaking in the Dáil.

Meanwhile, plans to create a new governance structure at the FAI are set to take another step forward today when a four-person Governance Review Group is finalised.

Aidan Horan, a director of the Institute of Public Administration, will be a central part of the four-person committee.

The FAI's interim CEO, Rea Walshe, and board member Niamh O'Donoghue, who joined the top table in 2017, will be part of the group and the final member should be confirmed by Sport Ireland today. They have to figure out a timeline and procedure around an EGM likely to be called ahead of the scheduled AGM in July.

As it stands, the FAI's board has to be drawn from the 60-person FAI Council and proposals will have to be drafted for an EGM to consider - even if that means voting on an overhaul of the system.

Sport Ireland chief John Treacy said yesterday he is confident a new board structure would deliver the culture change needed to restore public confidence. "They will be laying the framework for what the FAI is going to look like in the future in terms of corporate governance," he said.

"What's really important is that we have the right type of skills required for the board going forward. The board of the FAI must lead the organisation and not the chief executive. That's a lesson that everyone has learned.

"You need people who know the sport, but you need people of independent mind who can make the right decisions for the right reasons."

Mr Treacy said the Governance Review Group will submit proposals to Sport Ireland within the next two months.

The Sport Ireland CEO also stated John Delaney is "not a part of the FAI any more" as the association faces a number of investigations.

"John Delaney has voluntarily stepped aside," he said. "I can't really comment on that because that is a contractual piece with the FAI."

Irish Independent

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