Police Minister takes on F.F.S.
The Police Minister has criticised the Football Federation of Samoa (F.F.S.) for failing to report alleged criminal misappropriation to Police and will have lawyers review the organisation’s handling of the matter.
Last month the Samoa Observer revealed the F.F.S. chose not to alert Police after an employee was allegedly found to have misappropriated more than $200,000 in federation funds.
Minutes of an F.F.S.’ Executive Committee meeting showed its President, Papalii Leslie Petaia, raised concerns that doing so could affect the organisation’s image and chances of recovering the money.
On Wednesday Minister Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, questioned the organisation's failure to contact authorities.
“The alleged $200,000 misappropriation of funds should have been reported to the Ministry of Police,” the Minister of Police and Prisons told the Samoa Observer.
“After all it is not their [money], those funds belong to the donors; therefore accountability and transparency should have been considered by the management of the F.F.S.”
A total of $210,017 was alleged to have been misappropriated from the organisation by its former Finance Officer, Faith Ameto, over a two year period.
“This is to save public image,” Tialavea said.
The Minister noted there were only limited legal options for responding to the organisation’s decision to not report a crime.
"The Ministry can only investigate once a criminal complaint is lodged, but [I] will have our legal team look into this, [to see] if we can do anything about it,” he said.
The Samoa Observer contacted Papalii Leslie Petaia via email on Wednesday but did not receive a reply.
According to the minutes cited in the Samoa Observer’s original report, Ms. Ameto was asked to pay back the money within a month after the meeting.
“According to Papali’i, if this is treated as a criminal case [F.F.S] will not recover our funds. We also have to think about the image of the Federation and the game if we pursue the matter with the Police and the Courts,” the minutes of the 6 October meeting read.
But the Minister of Police expressed disappointment that the F.F.S. had opted to “save face” instead of handling the matter transparently.
“They should have done what is right,” the Minister said.
“They should not pick and choose which [alleged] criminal matter deserves the attention of the Police and which doesn’t.”
The Minister said that the effect of keeping matters of alleged criminality internal would only damage the F.F.S.’ reputation.
“The donors can easily step in and withdraw all their financial assistance into the country when matters such as these are not handled properly and that is the bigger picture,” Tialavea said.
“That should have been considered by the F.F.S. management, and then they would have more problems to worry about other than save face from the public.”
When originally contacted for comments in December after the Samoa Observer obtained the F.F.S. internal record, Papali’i was adamant the matter had been resolved internally.
He then accused the Samoa Observer of seeking to “defame” the organisation.
“[It is] not surprising your paper seems to use [the] F.F.S. to sell stories that are defamatory to the sport and Samoa as a whole in terms of its development, funding from its donors and commercial sponsors,” Papali’i said.
Ms. Ameto’s services were terminated in October, according to the F.F.S. document.
She was asked to pay back the missing funds by 13 November “otherwise the matter [would] be referred to the Police and the Courts”.
The F.F.S. President accused the Samoa Observer of harassment and threatened to pursue legal action if reporting on this story was to continue.
“If you persist on [reporting on] something that is an internal matter, we will consider our legal options,” he said in an email.
“We will pursue this matter with you and Samoa Observer in the Courts should you continue to harass [the F.F.S.] with matters which I've said is an internal matter, has already [been] resolved and as far as I'm concerned is now closed.”
The President also demanded the Samoa Observer disclose its sources, something which this newspaper never has.
“If you are brave, transparent, and fair enough as a responsible journalist, identify your sources and tell them to come and speak directly to me or you all come together for me to enlighten you all on the birth of Christ our saviour,” he said.
But Papali’i was adamant that the incident had been dealt with; he said the standards of governance within the organisation had been raised.
“Rest assured this is all part of the ‘good governance’ reforms we are rolling out,” he said.
F.I.F.A. did not respond to requests for comment about the F.F.S. this week. The O.F.C. declined to comment, saying the matter was not within its jurisdiction.
Papalii refused to comment as to why a matter involving a large amount of money had not been referred to the Police when earlier matters involving the former C.E.O. and President and the F.F.S. had been.
(Both those charges were withdrawn in July after the Supreme Court dismissed the charges following a request from the Attorney-General to withdraw the charges).
Seve Dr. Folototo Seve was appointed the F.F.S.’ Chief Executive Officer but resigned late December after having fulfilled one-year of his three year contract.
It is understood that a search for Seve’s replacement is underway.