By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England, Feb 8 (Reuters) - An independent review of the running of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has found "potential elements of mismanagement" and "possible abuse of power" amidst concern about widespread use of cash payments.
On Monday, the sport's world governing body FIFA said it was ending its six-month intervention in African soccer's ruling organisation, saying the mission to speed up the reform of football on the continent was "successfully completed".
FIFA made a series of recommendations including changes to improve "good governance, financial management and internal procedures".
The move came after a review of CAF's finances by Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC), which was highly critical of how the African organisation's finances had been managed.
A copy of the 55-page report has been seen by Reuters and outlines a series of concerns about CAF's book-keeping.
"The accounting records of CAF are unreliable and not trustworthy," said the PWC report.
"Based upon the procedures performed and documents reviewed, several red flags, potential elements of mismanagement and possible abuse of power were found in key areas of finance and operations of CAF.
"Given the serious nature of certain findings and red flags identified from the preliminary due-diligence, we cannot rule out the possibility of potential irregularities."
Neither CAF nor FIFA immediately responded to requests for comment.
The report expressed particular concern about the amount of transactions which were carried out in cash and without the necessary supporting documentation.
"Large numbers of payments were made in cash, typically involving CAF issuing a “cheque to cash”, which is then spent by a CAF Staff," it said.
"The use of cash for businesses expenses in this manner results in little or no audit trail to verify if the cash has been spent legitimately or not. These disbursements are often high value round sum amounts. (e.g. USD 215,000 spent in cash during General Assembly meeting in Ethiopia in March 2017)."
FIFA effectively took over the running of African football after the corruption scandals which consumed CAF last year, including allegations against the African soccer body's president Ahmad Ahmad which he has denied.
FIFA confirmed at the time that Ahmad, a former cabinet minister in his native Madagascar, was being investigated by its ethics committee although he was not suspended.
Ahmad was also briefly detained and questioned by French authorities in June as part of a corruption investigation.
Fatma Samoura, FIFA's secretary general, had been made “general delegate for Africa” as part of the intervention but her mandate has now ended.
PWC examined 40 payments from FIFA development funds totalling $10 million and found that 14 payments totalling $4.6 million (47%) had "no or insufficient supporting documentation to determine the beneficiary, purpose, and benefit for CAF".
It said 21 payments totalling $3.6 million were considered "unusual or deemed higher risk" and that only five payments totalling $1.6 million had "sufficient documentation and appeared to be aligned to the described purpose."
The joint FIFA-CAF task force looking into the running of the Cairo-based African body highlighted several areas that needed investigation.
In a recommendation document seen by Reuters, the task force said CAF needed to examine the lack of documentation for expenses, look in detail at the broadcast rights deals struck with France-based sports marketing company Lagardere and carry out due diligence into the use of FIFA funds for development programmes.
The task force also recommended CAF investigate possible "misappropriation of funds" linked to the Centre of Excellence in Mbankomo, Cameroon and conduct an inquiry into "hacking/email spoofs" which it said resulted in "attempted and/or executed fraudulent bank transfers" in order to "clarify the circumstances around the incidents to rule out insider involvement". (Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris)