The Cayman Islands Football Association has said it will appoint an independent committee to examine spending on its multimillion-dollar Centre of Excellence.
Concerns have been raised about an apparent lack of progress at the site in Prospect, which has attracted more than $3 million in FIFA and sponsor funding over the past decade.
So far, the facility comprises one artificial turf field and a small office building.
The project is under new scrutiny following former CIFA president Jeffrey Webb’s guilty plea in a massive world football bribery scam. The U.S. federal indictment outlining the case against Webb and other world football officials includes allegations that the Caymanian banker and businessman embezzled funds intended for youth development programs.
Acting CIFA boss Bruce Blake announced Wednesday that the association is inviting the auditor general and the Ministry of Sports to appoint members to a nine-person committee that will also include appointees from CIFA’s own membership, its sponsors and the executive committee.
However, Martin Ruben, from the Auditor General’s Office, said the office had not been approached about the idea and would not be able to be involved.
Mr. Blake said in a press statement that the committee would have a remit to look into all financial contributions to the Centre of Excellence, including from FIFA’s development fund, known as the GOAL program, and contributions from private sector sponsors.
“There has been a lot of attention placed on, and speculation in relation to, the FIFA Goal Project,” he said. “In order to answer all questions and address all concerns in a open and transparent manner, the CIFA Executive Committee has resolved to appoint an independent committee to review all aspects of the FIFA Goal Project, from inception to present, and provide an independent report to the general public.”
According to FIFA’s website, approximately US$1.8 million of an allocated US$2.2 million has been paid by FIFA to contractors for work on the site.
Cayman Islands Football Association accounts for 2013/14, though not yet signed off by auditors, indicate an additional $984,000, booked in earlier accounts as loans from “strategic partners,” were actually sponsorship grants for the construction of the national training center.
The football association has previously claimed that a lot of the cash, donated by FIFA’s GOAL project, had to be spent on fill to raise the level of the low-lying swampy land, which was donated by government on a long-term peppercorn lease arrangement.
In an opening ceremony for the office building more than six years ago, Webb appeared alongside FIFA President Sepp Blatter and then regional football boss Jack Warner to outline lofty goals for the center, including three playing fields, a gym and dormitories.
Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden has been among those to call for greater transparency and clarity on the project. He said Thursday, “I welcome the news, and at least the message has gotten through that there needs to be transparency in this matter. The eyes of the world are upon us as a country. I trust that a full and accurate disclosure will be made to this independent body.”
He said CIFA’s involvement should be limited to observer status rather than an active role, if the committee was to be truly independent.
Mr. Blake indicated in his press release that CIFA wanted the panel to include two appointees from the Ministry of Sports, two from the CIFA Executive Committee, two from CIFA’s membership and two nominated by the sponsors, as well as someone from the Office of the Auditor General.
Mr. Ruben, audit principal in the Auditor General’s Office, said the committee was news to him and any involvement was out of the question.
“The Office of the Auditor General provides the Legislative Assembly with information that can be used to hold government to account for their collection and spending of public monies.
“The office is, to the extent possible, independent of government in order to carry out its mandate. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for our auditors to be engaged with any organization that is a recipient of public funds.”