The Ghana Football Association (GFA) wishes to express its grave displeasure and disappointment over cack-handed comments His Excellency Jon Benjamin, British High Commissioner to Ghana, made about the GFA’s handling of FIFA funds.
Mr Benjamin said in a recent interview that the GFA does not use FIFA’s money to develop good pitches at grassroots level for ordinary Ghanaians and also implied that GFA officials use FIFA money for ‘very expensive luxury SUVs’ for their personal use instead of using it to develop pitches in Ghana.
As if it was not bad enough, Mr. Benjamin appeared to suggest that the President of the GFA Mr Kwesi Nyantakyi personally uses FIFA funds for personal gains.
Mr Benjamin's comments are at best stupendous ignorance or, at worst, sinister.
Contrary to the claims of Mr Benjamin, FIFA funds are not assigned to Mr Nyantakyi for his personal use but paid directly to every federation annually for specific projects and pre-determined uses. The usage of the FIFA funds is audited by KPMG and Ghana has not defaulted on any use of FIFA funds.
As a matter of fact, Ghana is among the few federations in the world to have reached FIFA Goal Project 5 and without financial prudence, the GFA could not have reached this milestone.
Even though Mr Benjamin claims he has not seen any projects that FIFA funds have been used for by the GFA, we wish to point out that the two buildings in the federation's headquarters - which is just a stone's throw from the British High Commission in Accra - is one of the many projects funded through funds from FIFA.
The Ghanaman Soccer Centre of Excellence at Prampram which consists of classrooms, dormitories, conference rooms, dinning halls and pitches is another excellent reference point for Fifa-funded projects in Ghana.
The development of an artificial pitch at the Tema Sports Stadium, the sole-funding of the women’s league in Ghana, the free countrywide training courses for coaches of colts clubs, the heavily discounted development courses for coaches and the free training for medical staff and administrators as well as the capacity building of our regional offices, are some of the well-documented projects the GFA has undertaken with FIFA funds since 2005.
The use funds from our participation in the World Cup from 2006 to date is clear to all. The funds from the 2006 World Cup was used for resourcing our regional football bodies and funding of the various national teams. The proceeds from the 2010 and 2014 World Cup are all with government.
By this, it is obvious that Mr Benjamin is ignorant of the many developmental projects the GFA has undertaken and continues to undertake through funds from FIFA.
Furthermore, his call for the GFA to develop pitches in Ghana is completely misplaced. The development of infrastructure for the development of grassroots football - like all countries in the world - is not the responsibility of respective football federations. Governments across the globe, as part of their social contract with their citizens, develop sports infrastructure. And as it is in his country, the more than 20,000 pitches and parks were developed by the United Kingdom government and not by the English Football Association. His remarks that the GFA should develop pitches in Ghana shows Mr. Benjamin is remarkably cavalier over whose duty it is to develop pitches in the country.
Another outrageous claim by the British High Commissioner is that GFA officials use luxury and expensive SUVs and Land Cruisers instead of developing pitches. The GFA is surprised by this completely false claim by Mr. Benjamin. The GFA owns just two SUVs and by no stretch of the English language can two be described as many. The two cars were purchased through our internally generated funds for the use of the national team coach and the office of the president of the GFA. The fact that cars of all shapes and sizes from footballers to club owners and ordinary football fans come to the federation's headquarters does not mean that it belongs to the GFA or GFA officials have diverted FIFA funds to buy luxury and expensive cars.
Mr Benjamin also described as contradictory Mr Nyantakyi’s praise for FIFA's internal mechanisms when Sepp Blatter was suspended by the Ethics Committee. The High Commissioner totally misrepresented Mr Nyantakyi who only sought to point out that FIFA should be praised for having enough measures in place to contain misconduct (whether perceived or real) within its set up. Mr Nyantakyi explained that if FIFA president can be subjected to its disciplinary procedures, that is commendable. This was in an answer to a question as to whether FIFA should be branded as corrupt if its President is suspended.
Considering Mr Benjamin’s stature in international diplomacy, the GFA is negatively surprised that the British High Commissioner has taken the undiplomatic route of making unsubstantiated and false claims against the GFA without cross-checking the information with the GFA which is just a stone's throw from his office.
Credit: GFA Communications Division