Exclusive – CAF’s cash mountain dangerously crumbling under Ahmad spending

By Osasu Obayiuwana

November 8 – The Confederation of African Football (CAF) lost 26% of its cash reserves between March 2017 and May 2019, according to Mohamed El-Sherei (pictured), the body’s sacked Director of Finance. 

“When the present CAF administration took over in March 2017, we had a cash balance of $136 million in the bank. And we were $1.6 million in credit with FIFA, as they owed us a payment. We had no outstanding debts at that time.

“But at the time I was suspended on May 15, 2019, the CAF bank balance was down to $103 million. We also had money from the ‘FIFA Forward’ programme in a different account. That came to about $44 million,” El Sherei told Insideworldfootball during an exclusive interview, at the Heliopolis Sporting Club in Cairo on Sunday, November 3.

“One of the reasons for the drop in reserves was the unsustainable levels of spending at CAF, not matched by any corresponding increases in income,” El-Sherei claimed.

“The annual subvention for each national association, which was at $100,000, in 2017, which is an annual $5.4 million spend for CAF, was already a major commitment for the organisation. But the president decided to increase the annual subvention to $200,000, which now meant an annual $10.8 million spend. In my opinion, this was tantamount to CAF eating from its own body…”

“I went to the President in December 2018 and told him that CAF was spending too much and we could not support it, based on CAF’s income.

“I became a marked man after telling him this, because he went to the executive committee and told them that I refused to carry out his instructions,” El-Sherei claimed.

“The CAF executive committee did not heed my warnings about excessive spending and went ahead to approve the President’s request… With this type of spending, is it any surprise that the reserves of the organisation are down?”

In an Insideworldfootball exclusive, on July 13, El-Sherei told this reporter that the CAF President ordered him to make air travel payments for a select group of Muslim Federation/FA presidents going to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in contravention of CAF’s financial regulations, as well as the FIFA Ethics Code.

See: Sacked finance director says Ahmad ordered CAF to pay for Umrah pilgrimage

Such a use of football funds – which El-Sherei reported to the FIFA Ethics Committee on May 31, six weeks before his sacking on July 8 – would be in gross violation of the FIFA Ethics and Disciplinary Codes, as well as FIFA and CAF’s own financial guidelines, forbidding the use of football funds for the personal benefit of officials.

“I can confirm that all payments made by CAF, with regards to people travelling for the Umrah, were made on the direct instructions of President Ahmad,” he said in July.

The CAF president is yet to respond directly to these allegations but told this reporter, in July, that FIFA’s forensic audit of CAF’s finances would vindicate him.

“Let FIFA come and let Fatma [Samoura] begin her work on the first day of August and we shall see,” Ahmad told this reporter on July 13.

“I am the one that asked FIFA to audit CAF, in order to see if there are things that are wrong in CAF. I want an independent person to examine our finances.”

Many in African football circles accuse El-Sherei as being complicit in the alleged actions of Ahmad and opine he should have refused to make the payments, knowing they were in contravention of CAF and FIFA regulations.

“Osasu, how is it possible to refuse a direct order from the CAF President, as an employee? This is Africa and you know what will happen should I refuse. I would have been put out at that time,” El-Sherei said.

“It was not just an order, it was a demand… The CAF President also undertook to reimburse the payments and it was on that basis that I accepted to do what he asked…

“Mr Ahmad was due to repay $102, 263 or thereabouts. I don’t know if he has repaid it now but it had not been repaid as at the time I was still with the organisation.”

“Ahmad never gave instructions in writing but I sent an email to the head of CAF’s Compliance Unit, which was copied to the president, outlining the oral request he had made.”

“But the reply from the head of the CAF compliance was very funny. He claimed that the tickets were not meant for the Umrah trip but that it was a ‘maintenance trip’ to CAF HQ. Can you imagine this? Eighteen presidents of federations, who are not engineers, are coming for a maintenance overview of the CAF headquarters?”

The 42-year-old, who did not receive a payoff after CAF dismissed him, says months without an income is taking a huge toll on his family.

“It has been very hard for me. Life is difficult. But I have taken CAF to court, in order to get what I am entitled. I will fight for that.”

The full Q&A interview with Mohamed El-Sherei will be published by Insideworldfootball in the coming days.  

Contact the writer of this story, Osasu Obayiuwana, at moc.l1600977636labto1600977636ofdlr1600977636owedi1600977636sni@o1600977636fni1600977636