By: Kofi Owusu Aduonum
The Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG) has noted with deep concern the latest controversy surrounding the expenditure by Ghana’s contingent to the 2010 Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) World Cup, as presented to Parliament by the Minister of Youth and Sports, Ms. Akua Sena Dansua, last week.
Of particular concern to SWAG is the controversy generated by an amount of $50,000 budgeted for media relations, which the Minister suggests was shared among Ghanaian journalists who covered the tournament in South Africa.
As has been the practice at international sports organisation, the Ministry or Ghana Football Association (GFA) sometimes assists the media financially, or helps to provide accommodation to facilitate their work.
Thus the existence of $50,000 for media relations, however astronomical, is nothing new or surprising.
However, what has raised eyebrows, and stirred up so much controversy, is the denial after denial by journalists who covered the World Cup, that they were recipients of any such money, either from the GFA, or the Ministry, for “media relations.”
Given the conflicting statements from both the Ministry and GFA, over which body actually handled the money, and the identity of the recipients, it is the considered opinion of SWAG that the two bodies make full disclosure on this particular issue, to bring it to a closure.
What is even worrying is that in recent times, some sports associations have created all manner of phantom media relations budgets, where questionable amounts of monies are supposedly given to media practitioners to execute various agenda.
It is not in the interest of the SWAG to stampede the authorities into presenting the full World Cup account before it goes through the processes of auditing and presentation to the appropriate body in Parliament.
SWAG finds the uproar generated in both Parliament, and the court of public opinion, most unfortunate, because of the negative signals it could send out to corporate sector and society at large, regarding the oft-held view of the lack of financial prudence and accountability within the sporting sector.
The Association is not oblivious of the constitutional requirements and processes required to be undertaken before the final financial statement is presented to the House, after it has been audited by the Auditor General, and will therefore, not pass judgement.
However, a cursory look at some of the items listed in the expenditure presented to Parliament raises concerns that need to be looked at critically, and urgently.
But, however, given the litany of financial scandals that have plagued Ghana sports in recent times, it is important that the authorities take steps to ensure transparency, and full disclosure in their financial dealings, especially, where the public purse is concerned.
It is the considered view of SWAG that if urgent steps are not taken to build trust and transparency, the integrity of our sports associations and officials will continue to be tainted needlessly, and it could make even corporate bodies reticent in financing Ghana sports out of suspicion of financial impropriety.