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Oman sports minister quizzed over irregularities

Shura Council members probe claims of financial mismanagement at Oman Football Association

Gulf News

Muscat: Oman’s sports minister was grilled on Wednesday by members of the Shura Council alleging ‘administrative and financial irregularities’ at the Oman Football Association (OFA). The grilling preceded a blizzard of reports and commentaries on social networks accusing the ministry of turning a blind eye to allegations of fiscal mismanagement and favouritism at the national football governing body.

Exercising its powers to summon ministers and top government officials for questioning, the Council sought the Sports Affairs Minister, Shaikh Sa’ad Bin Mohammad Al Saadi’s presence at a specially convened meeting to discuss the claims, according to the official Oman News Agency (ONA).

In one of the most serious of the allegations levelled by a number of shura council members, the minister was questioned about the legality of the OFA’s decision to set up a private entity, Al Intisar Sports Company, in contravention of established norms.

In his response, Al Saadi defended the action, saying the entity was formed up in line with a resolution adopted by OFA’s General Assembly. The company’s mandate, he said, was to generate funds for the Association’s regular activities, a practice also followed by international sports federations around the world.

The minister was also quizzed about criteria employed by OFA to award its Board of Directors generous bonuses and payments. To this, Al Saadi said the criteria applied to all sports federations in the Sultanate, and not just to OFA. But he stressed that existing laws regulating sports bodies were being amended to bring them into line with international trends.

There were also tough questions relating to the payment of high salaries to certain officials within the OFA, and alleged cronyism in the appointment of heads of some football clubs. Rejecting these claims, Al Saadi said these actions were governed by a set of regulations and bylaws applied by all sports federations supervised by the Ministry, and not just OFA per se. He said the Football Association’s finances were being audited by the government financial watchdog, the State Financial and Administrative Audit Institution (SFAAI). Certain queries raised by the audit agency were clarified by the Association, the Minister said, adding the OFA’s finances are also being routinely scrutinised by the Ministry. Al Saadi also defended the OFA’s decision to charter a plane to fly back the national football team from Japan following the recent World Cup qualifier in Tokyo. Proper guidelines were followed in selecting a suitable charterer, he stated.