With the ZIFA board elections approaching its home-stretch this week, the battle for places on the executive took a nasty turn over the weekend amid untested allegations of misappropriation of funds at the association which a fuming finance guru Philemon Machana dismissed as frivolous and unfounded yesterday.
Incumbent board member finance Machana is one of six candidates vying for the four board member slots that will complete the ZIFA executive on the December 1 elections.
Machana has been credited with bringing sanity and discipline to the way ZIFA funds are handled with the businessman using the principle of “we eat what we kill” to instil financial prudence.
But a week before the ZIFA election winds up, Machana found himself at the receiving end of a “calculated smear campaign designed to tarnish his image”.
A furious Machana responded to weekend media reports via a statement on the ZIFA website yesterday dismissing untested claims that he was siphoning funds from the association through an alleged South African bank account.
What also irked Machana is that some of the claims exposed ignorance of FIFA and COSAFA accounting procedures as both the world soccer governing body and the Southern African bloc do not deposit funds meant for member associations into personal accounts of administrators.
A media-shy character, Machana’s tough stance on financial discipline has also not won him many friends in the domestic football family especially from cliques that had been used to siphoning money through inflated claims.
“However, this release is one of those rare situations where it becomes necessary to respond and in particular to falsehoods which are contained in The Standard newspaper publication of Sunday 25th of November 2018 in a back-page story titled “ZIFA elections in doubt”.
“I wish to start by categorically mentioning that I respect the media and the critical role they perform in educating and informing the nation and holding various institutions to account,” Machana said.
Machana was irked by claims that FIFA and COSAFA funds were being channelled into his personal account and dismissed the allegations as ludicrous and a deliberate plot to injure his reputation ahead of Saturday’s election.
“FIFA does not pay any Football Association (FA) funds to individuals and has not and will never do such transactions.
“FIFA periodically audits all the money it pays to FAs, ZIFA included, and it uses for this exercise as one of the primary sources the dedicated FAP bank account operated and run by the association for that purpose.
“For the past three years including 2018, FIFA has been sending its own auditors to audit all ZIFA transactions regarding the FAP funds and in all instances ZIFA has been found to be clean.
“This for a well-meaning journalist who is bent on writing the truth is not at all difficult to confirm even from FIFA itself. I do not operate a bank account in any country outside Zimbabwe”.
Machana said had he been siphoning funds meant for development of the game in the country, then both FIFA and he could have been charged by Zimbabwean authorities for “externalisation and money laundering which are very serious crimes in the current dispensation and in accordance with our laws”.
“Apart from the alleged criminality, these lies naturally put dents to my profession and everything good that l stand for. I therefore publicly challenge the reporter to come clean and show the world proof of these transactions he has referred to.
“Regarding COSAFA prize money, such has never and cannot happen.”
Machana noted that COSAFA secretary-general Sue Destombes and her secretariat are always at the disposal of those seeking to understand how the regional body operates and handles its prize money for the various competitions conducted by the 14-member bloc.
“It is also a fact that ZIFA has been audited every year by a very reputable firm. To show no bad intentions, the current executive found the same firm auditing our books and no effort was made to change them. This we did so that no one can accuse us of putting our own firm and tinkering with the auditors’ independence.
“Surely if such transgressions of externalising were happening this could have also been picked up by the auditors.
“It is also a fact that annual audit reports on ZIFA have been religiously done with the reportage continuing to improve in successive years since our coming into office and in particular my taking over the position of board member responsible for finance. We have improved in all areas be it existing internal controls, transparency, accountability issues, procurement policies and honouring of created current obligations.
“We have been in every football competition and have made sure football is played with minimum incidents.
Machana said although they had differed with former ZIFA board member Felton Kamambo on some football issues, the pair had remained on talking terms on a regular basis.
Kamambo has been disqualified from competing in the ZIFA elections with his appeal against the ruling being dismissed by an Appeals committee on Wednesday.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Mr Felton Kamambo is a colleague of mine, I speak to him regularly even now, I have no personal issues with him and l am sure as a former board member he also knows too well how FIFA and COSAFA transact and that there are no way funds can ever be paid directly to individually owned foreign or local bank accounts.
“I would also want to put it in record that I am a candidate in the coming ZIFA election, I am being contested by all those whose papers were independently assessed by the electoral committee and found to be in good standing and thus l cannot accept my name to be unfairly soiled.
“As a disciple of good governance, I will never allow under my watch meagre ZIFA funds to be misappropriated. I came to serve football not for football to serve me.
“I therefore rest my case by assuring all stakeholders including current and potential ZIFA partners that the association funds have been in good, trustable and professional hands.
“I urge these to ignore the prophets of doom and those that think news is only news when they portray a negative picture such that if they fail to find any bad realities they will rather go ahead and create fake news,” said Machana.