Sport Ireland has referred the report of an independent forensic audit of the FAI’s finances to the gardaí.
In a major development last night, it also emerged that Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) has also been notified of the audit’s findings.
Accountancy firm KOSI was appointed by Sport Ireland in May to carry out an “extensive independent audit” of the FAI including an assessment of the association’s “fitness to handle public funds”.
It followed revelations earlier this year that former FAI chief executive John Delaney had given a loan of €100,000 to the association.
Transport Minister Shane Ross confirmed last night that he had now received a copy of the KOSI report and that Sport Ireland had referred it to the gardaí.
In a letter to Fergus O’Dowd, chairman of the Oireachtas sport committee, Mr Ross said he cannot, “on legal advice”, furnish a copy of the audit report at this time.
“I have taken legal advice on the final report which is, by its nature, a private and confidential document which is not intended to be placed in the public domain. This legal advice has highlighted the importance of respect for natural justice in respect of all individuals referenced in the report,” he said.
“Publication of the final report would, I am advised, be contrary to the principles of natural justice. Accordingly, neither I, nor Sport Ireland, propose to publish the report at this time.”
Mr Ross also said that he had written to An Garda Síochána to advise them that he had received a copy of the report and to assure them “of the full co-operation of both myself and the officials of my department in any investigation arising into matters laid out in the final report”.
While he said he was aware of the work done by the committee in relation to the FAI, Mr Ross said that, on legal advice, he was not prepared to give the committee sight of the report.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr O’Dowd welcomed the referral of the audit to gardaí, saying it was “appropriate and proper that it is in their hands”.
He said this is a very serious matter and the FAI must now hold its AGM before the end of the year and stressed that the priority must be to get the €2.9m in State funding restored so local clubs don’t pay the price for governance issues.
Mr O’Dowd said he accepted the report not being published to allow the gardaí and the ODCE to finish their work, but said it has to be published once that process is completed.
Fine Gael TD Noel Rock, a member of the Oireachtas sport committee, described yesterday evening’s events as “a serious development in this case”.
“I am told the KOSI Audit of FAI referred to An Garda Síochána. A serious development in this case. I hope we can get answers soon,” he tweeted.
I am told the KOSI Audit of FAI referred to An Garda Siochana. A serious development in this case. I hope we can get answers soon.— Noel Rock (@NoelRock) November 27, 2019
Solicitor for the Players Football Association of Ireland (PFAI), Stuart Gilhooly, described the developments yesterday as “very strange”.
“Very strange developments today with KOSI report. It’s Sport Ireland’s report so they can do what’s (sic) they please with it but surely this will slow things down for months. As a council member I want to see it but I suspect I won’t now. How will we move on? The torture continues,” he tweeted.
Very strange developments today with KOSI report. It’s Sport Ireland’s report so they can do what’s they please with it but surely this will slow things down for months. As a council member I want to see it but I suspect I won’t now. How will we move on? The torture continues.— Stuart Gilhooly (@PFAISolicitor) November 27, 2019
In a statement, the board of the FAI said it has not yet received a copy of the final report, but stressed that “all Government money allocated to the FAI by Sport Ireland was spent appropriately and as intended”.
“The board of the FAI and FAI staff are already co-operating fully with the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement in its enquiry into the FAI. The Football Association of Ireland will co-operate fully with any Garda Síochána investigation into FAI affairs on the back of the decision by the CEO of Sport Ireland to refer the report to An Garda Síochána,” read the statement.