By Andrew Warshaw
April 9 – Oceania football chief David Chung, who abruptly resigned last week, did so after an audit of his confederation found “potential irregularities” on a $20 million building project and funding was cut to the region by FIFA, it has been revealed.
Chung, who was FIFA’s senior vice president and a member of its ruling council, quit after seven years giving no reason for his sudden departure.
After at first merely acknowledging his decision, FIFA later disclosed it had ordered an investigation into the construction of a new headquarters for the OFC in Auckland.
“OFC has been recently the subject of a review conducted by an external audit firm on FIFA’s behalf,” FIFA said in a statement to The Associated Press. “It has shown potential irregularities in the construction process of the OFC Home of Football.
“The review findings, which were not focusing on specific individuals, led to the temporary suspension of funding to OFC. The process is now ongoing and the FIFA administration will continue to support OFC in building and improving their internal controls.”
FIFA’s statement will only serve to cement the lingering suspicion of financial impropriety surrounding Chung’s tenure at the OFC as well as casting a dark shadow over the FIFA’s administration’s attempts to clean up its constituent bodies.
Chung had repeatedly been the focus of corruption allegations in the region but was so entrenched at FIFA that he seemed untouchable – even to the point that FIFA released the identity of a whistleblower to Chung and the OFC who then issued a press release denouncing him as a disgruntled employee, and attacking this publication.
No audited OFC accounts have been made publicly available since 2015 – when Chung was re-elected. His exit came ahead of a special general meeting of the OFC Executive committee in Auckland on Sunday which, according to local reports, had been considering a vote of no confidence in Chung, a strong ally of FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Instead he appears to have jumped before he was pushed.
Chung was effectively Infantino’s highest-ranking deputy and is still listed as president of the Papua New Guinea Football Association. In his absence, the OFC executive committee stopped short of naming an interim replacement until its Congress in June when a replacement will be elected to serve out the current term of OFC President, which concludes in 2019.
In the meantime, said an OFC statement, the organisation will be led by the entire exco.
Yet there was one hugely significant development with the confederation deciding to launch its own probe into potentially fraudulent activity under Chung and carry out a complete overhaul of its internal operations.
“The report resulting from an audit into the OFC Home of Football construction process conducted by an external audit firm, on behalf of FIFA, was analysed by the OFC Executive Committee,” the OFC said. “In light of the report findings, the OFC Executive Committee has appointed an external lawyer to lead an internal investigation into potential wrongdoings and to take legal action, if required.”
The move represents a savage indictment of how the OFC was run under Chung, who was equally controversial in Papua New Guinea where he was accused of vote-rigging at the 2016 PNGFA elections. “A forensic audit has been ordered to review, in detail, the processes taken in relation to the OFC Home of Football and the financial processes adopted by the OFC Administration in past years,” the OFC said
“In order to address the suspension of funding from FIFA to OFC, the OFC Executive Committee has agreed to implement all the conditions set out by the FIFA Audit and Compliance Committee as soon as possible. OFC will set up a reform committee to review the current OFC constitution, policy and practice activity. This committee will be formalised at the OFC Congress in June.”
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