′Notoriously closed′ FIFA needs independent oversight, says Transparency International | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 28.05.2015
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'Notoriously closed' FIFA needs independent oversight, says Transparency International

After several FIFA senior officials were arested this past week, the corruption watchdog has called for more transparency. But with the FIFA presidential election around the corner, are the candidates proposing reform?

As investigations into FIFA practices shift into high gear, DW spoke with Deborah Unger, rapid response manager at Transparency International, to discuss the FIFA corruption scandal and transparency reform.

DW: Following the arrest of several FIFA senior officials this week for racketeering and money laundering, is corruption in the organization rampant?

Unger: The US Department of Justice called it institutionalized corruption. I think that their indictments are basically against the commercial and marketing side of things. I don't think that it is rampant throughout FIFA. I think that they're probably focusing on the top, the people who have the decision making power.

Only FIFA's current President Joseph 'Sepp' Blatter and Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein remain in the presidential race. Have either of them proposed transparency reform?

Deborah Wise Unger Transparency International

Deborah Unger says FIFA's implemented reforms didn't work

I imagine that Mr. Blatter would say he has and that he had a reform agenda, which he started in 2011-2012. But we would say that the reform agenda has not worked.

He did institute a number of reforms that were recommended by us and FIFA's Independent Governance Committee. They did create a new ethics committee with two chambers - one to investigate and one to punish. They did introduce a number of different reforms throughout FIFA.

However, they did not accomplish a few that were very important - very basic reforms that any big business would usually have in place. They have no independent oversight on their executive committee, no non-executive directors. These are key issues because it seems from the indictments that it's people at the top - the decision makers - who are responsible for the corruption.

Regarding reform, Prince Ali has said he wants more transparency, but the proof is in the pudding. I think there are no real details in what he said in his manifesto. So it's hard to comment on that, on what exactly he would do.

We did ask the candidates to answer questions ahead of the election, when there were four candidates still in the race. All of them said they wanted transparency - except Mr. Blatter who didn't reply. But none of them gave detailed answers to the questions.

Prince Ali did say he would empower the executive committee to have oversight of the organization's financial accounts and wanted to have a more detailed budget. But he didn't go very far in saying what else he would do.

FIFA Sepp Blatter Korruption Ermittlungen Verhaftungen Symbolbild

Calls are mounting for FIFA boss Sepp Baltter to resign

Is it possible that this level of corruption also stretches back to previous World Cups?

In the US Department of Justice indictment, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is under investigation. Jack Warner, who has now been arrested, is alleged to have bribed people in that case.

So it has gone back a long way. They say that this institutionalized corruption has been going on for more than two decades. That's one of the reasons why we believe Mr. Blatter should step down. He clearly has not been able to come to grips with reforming his organization.

What can FIFA do to increase transparency and fight corruption in the organization?

Let people know what you're doing. FIFA is a notoriously closed organization. We don't know the pay structure of senior executives, for example. Large corporations of that size, if they were publically held, would have to publish that information. We don't know the conflicts of interest - if there are any - nor do we know the people at the top making the decisions for these contracts. More information on that would help with transparency. If you had non-executive directors on the executive committee, you would have independent oversight.

There's another issue - when you're appointing senior officials, we recommended that they have independent due diligence to look into the backgrounds to see if they were suitable for the job. FIFA rejected that and they have allowed all of the confederations to self-police. That has led to - well it seems anyway, based on the US indictment - that several federations have had people in place, or appointed people, who have corruption allegations against them.

What kind of pressure could be put on FIFA to change?

We've seen some of the sponsors come out more strongly than they have before. I think there might be grounds for the sponsors to put more pressure on FIFA. They have the purse strings. They're the ones who pay FIFA millions and millions of dollars. I can't imagine that they would like to be seen standing next to a FIFA that has just received 14 indictments of their very senior executives. They're not aligning themselves to a corrupt organization, or one that is perceived to be corrupt. They're trying to align themselves to a beautiful game. I think that they should keep up the pressure. They should force FIFA to change.

This interview was conducted by Lewis Sanders.

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