By Paul Nicholson
May 13 – FIFA secretary general, Fatma Samoura, in the job for barely a year, has been caught paying over CHF28,000 to a cleaning company for the servicing of her own private living quarters.
Samoura was found out after it was highlighted by new FIFA auditor Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC). She secretly paid the money back and PwC covered up the indiscretion by not mentioning it in their 2016 audit.
With FIFA’s federations having been treated to a spectacular ‘we-are-now-clean’ performance at the annual congress in Bahrain where president Gianni Infantino guaranteed that the bad old days of fraud and embezzlement within the organisation were over, just two days later his trusted number two has been unmasked for taking FIFA funds for her own personal use.
The fraud was uncovered by German magazine Der Spiegel who discovered that Samoura had allegedly hired Swiss firm SCJ to clean her home – SCJ has a long term contract with FIFA for looking after its properties. Samoura hired SCJ to clean her home five times a week for two hours a day. The cost was CHF 28 an hour, CHF 1,200 francs a month. By the end of 2016 the costs would have reached CHF 5,000 Swiss francs – but they were in fact much higher.
At the beginning of 2017, PwC’s auditors found that SCJ had charged about 1,000 additional hours, ballooning costs to a remarkable CHF 28,183. FIFA paid the bill.
In the 2016 FIFA Financial Report, PwC does not mention the matter at all. Der Spiegel says that a PwC auditor informed Samoura personally about the find and she paid the money back on April 27. PwC did not mention the discrepancy in their audit but instead covered it up.
Samoura is not commenting on the issue but internally is reportedly saying that she had not noticed that SCJ were cleaning so frequently. Der Spiegel contacted SCJ whose the managing director told them that the “contractual regulations in all respects were respected”.
Der Spiegel also broke the news to FIFA Audit and Compliance Commission chief Tomaž Vesel, who said: “In principle, I would not recommend it as an optimal procedure for FIFA employees to have personal contracts with FIFA partners and service providers.”
Samoura has led a massive purge of FIFA staff over the past year, which has now seen more than 100 employees fired or leave the governing on the basis of re-organisation of the business. She has said many were enriching themselves from FIFA’s money. It was a purge she championed as being necessary and as part of FIFA’s clean-up on Swiss TV.
She recently came under criticism in Africa for firing all development staff but failing to respect local employment laws by giving them just a week’s notice and no severance. Some of those cases are now coming to court – some of the employees had more than 10 years of service with FIFA before she fired them. The reality is that her cleaning bills accounted for more than their severance claims. An African from Senegal who previously worked at the United Nations, Samoura would have fully understood the cost of living in these countries and the difficult local economies. FIFA, that champions the concept of respect, in these cases is being argued to have failed to respect local law.
Samoura also said on Swiss television that she and president Infantino were underpaid – she earns almost $800,000, Infantino earned $1.5 million according to 2016 accounts – and that she was expecting a pay rise. It seems she tried to help herself to some of that pay rise by getting the organisation to pay for her home cleaning.
Infantino said to the AFC Congress on the eve of the FIFA Congress that FIFA no longer tolerated any form of theft of funds and anyone found doing so “can leave now”.
Infantino himself was cleared of misuse of FIFA funds after allegations about his own expense claims. The whistleblower in this case was fired by FIFA.
With all of FIFA’s Ethics personnel cleared out with immediate effect at last week’s FIFA’s Congress, eyes will be on how fast FIFA deals with Samoura’s alleged attempted embezzlement and if the “leave now” promise was just more rhetoric. Questions must also be asked of the conduct of PwC and whether there is anything else of a similar nature they are covering up.
A line from Hamlet where he bemoans the new regime in Denmark claims “the funeral baked meats did furnish forth the marriage table”. While Hamlet also felt that “there is something rotten in the state of Elsinore”, it seems there is still something rotten in FIFA House – probably quite a lot wrong if this is just the tip of the iceberg.
With US lawyers Quinn Emmanuel having been crawling all over the FIFA organisation in Zurich, one also wonders what they were really doing for their share of the $50 million that has been spent on lawyers.
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org