KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: The magnitude of the backward step taken by FIFA in terms of reform credibility has been underlined by the appointment of Slovenia’s Tomaz Vesel as interim independent chairperson of the audit and compliance committee.

Under the reforms undertaken at the instigation of governance guru Mark Pieth, the audit chairman was given extensive roving powers to sit in on each and every committee meeting and effectively oversee even the president.

However, at the Mexico City congress in May new president Gianni Infantino engineered the resignation from the role of Domenico Scala and smuggled through a motion which pulled the guarantee of independence from beneath all the judicial panels. The latter include the audit and compliance committee as well as the ethics chamber which had brought down former president Sepp Blatter and UEFA boss Michel Platini.

Vesel . . . now holding a delicate role at FIFA

Hence the latest announcement by FIFA that the bureau – Infantino plus senior representatives of six regional confederations – had appointed a new audit chair will be viewed beyond Zurich with extreme scepticism.

This is not to denigrate the cv and qualifications of Vesel himself, set out extensively in a news statement from the world football federation*.

However it raises again the old question about who polices FIFA at a time when the federation’s credibility remains shot to pieces and the organisation is under heavy scrutiny from judicial authorities in the United States and Switzerland.

Contract question

A further doubt about the integrity of the Infantino regime remains the unresolved question of his unsigned contract.

Wrangles over his expenses have fuelled a campaign of repetitive leaks against him, issues which would have been resolved had he accepted the original proposal from the remuneration committee which had been headed by Scala.

Vesel, recommended by the deputy head of the audit and compliance body, South African Sindi Mabaso Koyana, will also take up Scala’s chairmanship of the remuneration committee. He and finance chair Issa Hayatou must seek out an independent third member so as to resolve the troublesome issue of Infantino’s remuneration package.

Vesel’s status remains effectively that of caretaker because the furore over the reform reversals in Mexico led to Infantino hurriedly issuing subsequent clarifications that the removal of judicial independence had been merely an interim move ahead of further revision at the 2017 congress.

Slovenia is suddenly popping up everywhere on the football politics stage.

A visit Infantino made there figured in the ‘memorandum of mischief’ drawn up against Infantino and leaked to the Swiss and German media. Also, Slovenia federation president Aleksander Ceferin has attained significant support ahead of the election to choose a new president in succession to disgraced and banned Platini at UEFA.

Infantino, of course, before being elected as FIFA president this past February, had been general secretary of the European federation.

* FIFA statement:

The Bureau of the FIFA Council today appointed Tomaž Vesel of Slovenia as the independent chairperson of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee until the 67th FIFA Congress, with immediate effect.

Mr Vesel currently serves as President of the Court of Auditors in Slovenia having been elected by the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia in 2013. The Court of Auditors is the highest body for supervising state accounts, the state budget and all public spending in Slovenia – an EU member state since 2004.

The body is fully independent with its mandate governed by the Slovenian constitution and its powers of audit cannot be challenged before the courts or other state bodies.

Mr Vesel also played a significant role in establishing the auditing of public procurement and concessions, and in implementing audits of a variety of institutions in Slovenia. He is a published expert in the field of auditing and regularly gives lectures on the subject.

In addition to his work in Slovenia, Mr Vesel has worked with numerous European governments and the OECD as an expert adviser, and is an active member of the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Organisations and the European Organisation of Supreme Audit Organisations.

Mr Vesel holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Law from the University of Ljubljana and is engaged in post-graduate studies in European Economic Law at the University of Maribor.

“The appointment of Mr Vesel as independent chairperson of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee is an important development in the ongoing effort to strengthen FIFA’s governance and compliance systems,” said FIFA President, Gianni Infantino.

“This is a vital role within the organisation and Mr Vesel’s audit expertise and international experience will help reassure stakeholders and restore trust in FIFA.”

Upon accepting the role, Mr Vesel said: “I am delighted to be joining FIFA as the independent chairperson of the Audit and Compliance Committee. As a global institution that governs the world’s most popular sport, FIFA’s work has an expansive reach and tremendous impact.

“I look forward to working with FIFA to ensure that it operates in accordance with international standards and continues down the path of good governance that has been set out in the reforms.”

“FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee plays a critical oversight role as part of the organisation’s governance system, and in order to sustain the reform efforts underway, FIFA needs to strengthen its enabling instruments,” said Sindi Mabaso Koyana, deputy chairperson of the Audit and Compliance Committee.

“Mr Vesel’s appointment demonstrates FIFA’s commitment to bringing in personnel who will help to strengthen FIFA’s operations and build confidence amongst all of our stakeholders. I look forward to collaborating with Mr Vesel and to leveraging the collective experience of the committee members to support FIFA and the football fraternity at large.”

As required under the FIFA Statutes, Mr Vesel successfully passed the eligibility check conducted by the independent Review Committee which consists of the former Advocate General of the European Court of Justice, Miguel Poiares Maduro, the former Indian High Court judge Mukul Mudgal, and the former chairman of Peruvian football club Sporting Cristal, Felipe Cantuarias Salaverry.

The Audit and Compliance Committee is a key body within FIFA’s governance structure. Its primary duties are to ensure the completeness and reliability of FIFA’s financial accounting as well as reviewing the financial statements, the consolidated financial statements and the external auditors’ report.