By Andrew Warshaw
July 7 – A new member of Gianni Infantino’s inner protective clan or a genuinely positive step in FIFA’s reform process? Make up your own mind.
But the appointment of Slovenia’s Tomaz Vesel as the interim independent chairperson of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee might well be interpreted as smacking of political expediency.
It was only two months ago, remember, when Domenico Scala was forced to resign from the same post after FIFA’s Mexico City congress passed a motion smuggled in at the 11th hour which effectively pulled the rug from under the feet of all FIFA’s watchdog panels by compromising their independence - including audit and compliance.
Infantino denied accusations that he engineered the motion in order to get rid of Scala after the pair fell out spectacularly, partly over Infantino’s salary.
But the decision by the FIFA bureau – comprising Infantino and representatives of the six regional confederations – to bring in a replacement within just a few weeks of Scala’s resignation seems bound to fuel questions about Vesel’s own independence even though he was apparently recommended by the deputy head of the audit and compliance body, South African Sindi Mabaso Koyana who had worked alongside Scala.
As chairman of the panel overseeing FIFA’s billion-dollar annual spending, Vesel intriguingly also takes up Scala’s chairmanship of the remuneration committee, the body that set Infantino’s salary at $2 million which the FIFA president was reported to have described as an “insult” at that infamous Council meeting in Mexico. Much attention will now focus on the stance Vesel takes and whether he insists on Infantino accepting the same sum or offers him more.
Vesel was appointed on an interim basis and will stay in his post until next May when the next FIFA Congress is held in Kuala Lumpur. For their part, FIFA were at pains to flag up his qualities and experience at a time when the organisation badly needs some transparency following weeks of conflict behind the scenes, leading to both the resignation of Scala and the dismissal of long-time finance director, Markus Kattner over those World Cup bonuses though much suspicion surrounds the real reason Kattner was fired.
Infantino insists that Vesel joining FIFA could help rebuild confidence. “This is a vital role within the organization and Mr. Vesel’s audit expertise and international experience will help reassure stakeholders and restore trust in FIFA,” he said in a statement.
Vesel has worked for the past three years as president of Slovenia’s Court of Auditors, “the highest body for supervising state accounts, the state budget and all public spending in Slovenia,” FIFA said.
“In addition to his work in Slovenia, Mr. Vesel has worked with numerous European governments and the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) as an expert adviser.”
Vesel himself pledged to ensure that FIFA operates “in accordance with international standards and continues down the path of good governance that has been set forth in the reforms.”
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