CIFA clashes with Sports Minister
Jeffrey Webb has been officially terminated as president of the Cayman Islands Football Association after pleading guilty to involvement in racketeering and bribery schemes at world football’s governing body, FIFA.
CIFA’s executive committee, in a statement following an emergency meeting Monday night, said it would hold elections for the role “at its first congress in 2016,” though it has not set a date for the meeting.
“Following his guilty plea it has been determined that he is not fit for office of president of CIFA and as such his position as president of CIFA is officially vacated,” said the statement, released to the media by Bruce Blake, first vice president and acting president of the association.
The executive committee’s statement had no further comment on the admissions made by Mr. Webb or allegations in the new indictment that he embezzled funds allocated by FIFA for youth development programs.
The executive did take issue with Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden’s calls for new leadership at the organization and for a full audit of its finances.
In its statement, the committee said it has consistently provided annual audited financial statements to government and would re-deliver copies of all its annual reports from 2001 to his office this week, saying it was “appalled” by the implication that it had not done so. It also suggested government’s decision to pull funding from the organization, announced in August, was hurting youth programs.
Mr. Bodden clarified that he had been referring to the 2013/14 accounts, which were not signed off by auditors, and the need for a “forensic audit” to show exactly where the US$2.2m received from FIFA through the GOAL program for a Center of Excellence, which currently comprises an office building and a field, has been spent.
CIFA did not say whether the cache of documents it would deliver to Mr. Bodden would include its 2013/14 accounts, which were turned over to the Anti-Corruption Commission just prior to its August annual general meeting. Asked if those accounts had now been signed off by auditors, Mr. Blake did not respond by press time.
The Anti-Corruption Commission confirmed its initial comment that it was reviewing a matter involving CIFA, but had no further update Tuesday.
Almost $1 million in loans from two unnamed private companies were reassigned as sponsorship income in the association’s 2013/14 accounts, according to an unsigned version of the accounts given to attendees at the AGM.
CIFA’s press statement also indicates that it has complied with a requirement, over the years, to submit separate financial statements for the money it received from government. It said youth programs are now in jeopardy because of government’s decision to pull funding.
“We are still awaiting the remainder of the agreed funding for the 2014/2015 period despite having expended the funds towards our national team programs, domestic leagues and youth programs and provided an accounting to the minister. These youth programs are now in jeopardy and the future is unsure,” the statement said.
Mr. Bodden said Tuesday that CIFA had the power to get funding back from government.
“Our funding to CIFA has always been in large part for staffing and other administrative purposes, with a portion being used towards programs. It is disingenuous for CIFA to blame their alleged problems with their youth programs on government’s lack of funding. CIFA has the power to start to regain the Government’s support by providing the audited financials for up to at least December 2014 and embarking on a forensic audit of its operations,” Mr. Bodden said.
The committee’s statement said it was also “very concerned” about Mr. Bodden’s calls for new leadership at CIFA.
“Any interference with a democratic election process demonstrates a lack of understanding of constitutional law and is unwarranted. The minister cannot dictate to any national association who should or should not serve on its executive committee by interfering in an election process which is determined by its membership.”
Mr. Bodden said government was not seeking to interfere with how national sporting associations ran their everyday operations, but had to be accountable for the way government funds were spent.
“When we see circumstances at play such as has been alleged with CIFA in relation to FIFA funding and other entities, information being reported on from the HSA trial (in relation to) AIS and the CarePay contract and the inability of auditors to sign off on the 2014 financials, I have every right to call for an explanation and to withhold public funds until answers and transparency of activities are forthcoming.”
Renard Moxam, who challenged for a CIFA leadership role in August but was prevented from standing, said he would bid for the president’s role in 2016, now that the post had been officially vacated, provided the election process is open and democratic. He believes he was not treated fairly last time.
CIFA’s statement also appeared to criticize Mr. Moxam, without naming him personally.
“CIFA is guided by its constitution, and individuals who have expressed strong opinions in the press who somehow feel aggrieved should accept that they did not have the constitutional support to run for office and are only damaging football in our country by their continued negative remarks of Cayman football.”
Mr. Moxam attempted to run for the first vice president’s role, currently held by Mr. Blake, in August. He was initially told his nomination appeared to be in order, but was informed after the deadline that he had not correctly interpreted the requirements of the constitution and needed four clubs to nominate him, rather than two. Mr. Blake reassumed the role of first vice president without a ballot at the AGM. Mr. Moxam still disputes that interpretation of the constitution. He denied that his public calls for the long-standing members of the executive committee to step down were damaging football.
He said the damage to the game came from years of neglect and insisted it was time for new leadership.
“We need people who will speak the truth consistently and be very clear in their objectives of what needs to be done for the sport and not use CIFA for their personal agendas,” he said.
Mr. Bodden, at the time of the AGM in August, described CIFA’s action in blocking Mr. Moxam’s bid for office as a “technicality” and called for free and fair elections. He announced at that time that he was pulling government’s funding of CIFA.
In its statement on Monday, the CIFA executive committee said it had requested a meeting with the sports minister to address his concerns and to outline reforms to address the requirements to get the grant back, but had not yet received a response. The reforms include forming an independent internal audit and compliance committee, as well as a finance committee and outsourcing its accounting and financial statement production process.
“Whilst CIFA has experienced many challenges resulting from recent events and from limited funding from local government and the private sector, we continue our efforts to develop youth football in the Cayman Islands due to our strong commitment to the youth of our country,” the statement said.