FIFA: independent audit committee president resigns in protest at reforms

Gianni Infantino’s supposed new era of transparency and reform at Fifa is facing its first major challenge after the head of the president’s audit and compliance committee resigned over fears new rules would compromise independence and impede investigations into corruption at football’s troubled world body.

Domenico Scala who helped draw up the reforms Infantino is banking on to help rebuild the governing body’s battered reputation, quit after Fifa members passed rules giving the new Fifa council the power to appoint and dismiss members of independent committees until next year’s congress in Kuala Lumpur.

The row will come as a hammer blow to Infantino’s attempts to position himself as the reforming president who can make Fifa credible again.

The Fifa council has replaced the discredited executive committee, which went into meltdown after the US indictment that alleged a “World Cup of fraud” and led to a spate of arrests and the departure of Sepp Blatter. It is supposed to set the strategic direction for the organisation.

Friday’s decision appears to compromise the committees’ ability to fulfil their duties independently, at least until next year, and it has now led to Scala tendering his resignation.

Scala said in a statement: “On the occasion of its meeting on Friday, the Fifa congress has delegated the election, or the dismissal respectively, of the members of the independent supervisory bodies – such as the ethics committee, the appeal committee, the audit and compliance committee and the governance committee – to the exclusive competence of the Fifa council. With [Friday’s] decision, it will henceforth be possible for the council to impede investigations against single members at any time, by dismissing the responsible committee members or by keeping them acquiescent through the threat of a dismissal.

“Thereby, those bodies are factually deprived of their independence and are in danger of becoming auxiliary agents of those whom they should actually supervise. . I am consternated about this decision, because it undermines a central pillar of the good governance of Fifa and it destroys a substantial achievement of the reforms. For this reason, I herewith declare my immediate resignation as president of the audit and compliance committee of Fifa.

Infantino said in his congress speech on Friday that Fifa’s corruption crisis was over. “Fifa is back on track,” he told delegates. “So I can officially inform you here, the crisis is over.”

He later defended the new rules, claiming that critics should wait and see what appointments were made to the independent committees before passing judgment.

Fifa later responded to Scala’s resignation by claiming he had “misinterpreted” its decision. “Fifa accepts Domenico Scala’s resignation as chairman of the audit and compliance committee with immediate effect,” its statement read. “Fifa regrets that Mr Scala has misinterpreted the purpose of the decision taken by the congress. The decision was made to permit the Council to appoint members on an interim basis to the vacant positions of the new committees so they can start fulfilling their roles as part of the continuing reform process until the next Fifa Congress in 2017. Mr Scala has made unfounded claims which are baseless.”

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