SFO asked to probe football project
The Serious Fraud Office has been asked to investigate a Fifafunded Auckland football centre that ran millions of dollars over budget.
Since 2013, Fifa’s Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) has been building the OFC Home of Football at Ngahue Reserve in St Johns, Auckland.
Stage one was initially estimated to cost $5.3 million but as of 2016 costs had soared to $12.8m.
The budget blowout prompted Fifa to freeze funding to the Home of Football and launch an internal investigation.
New Zealand Football president Deryck Shaw, who is also an OFC board member, said the OFC had approached the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) seeking help shortly after a Fifa-commissioned PWC report uncovered ‘‘potential irregularities’’ relating to construction.
‘‘Our forensic team has been liaising very closely with the SFO,’’ Shaw said.
Asked whether the SFO was investigating he said: ‘‘I understand they are. I hope they are.’’ The SFO declined to comment. When Fifa announced in April it was conducting a ‘‘forensic audit’’ into the Home of Football, OFC president David Chung quit the organisation. His resignation came just months after Tai Nicholas quit as OFC general secretary.
O¯ ra¯ kei Local Board chairman Kit Parkinson said he and other council officials would today meet the new OFC general secretary, Franck Castillo, and chief operating officer Frederic Guillemont.
Castillo, Guillemont and Nicholas did not respond to requests for comment and Chung could not be reached.
In April Auckland Council said its relationship with OFC had ‘‘presented some difficulties’’.
Auckland company 3 Dimension Consultants was the Home of Football designer and project manager.
In April the Companies Office launched an investigation into the firm over the use of a dead man’s name to file its annual return.
3 Dimension Consultants director Kenneth Dentice on Tuesday said the SFO had not contacted him.
Stage one of the Home of Football includes two internationalsized artificial football fields, practice turf, warm-up turf, toilets, floodlights, car parking and landscaping.
Stage two was to include an OFC office, changing rooms, cafe and gym, but the Auckland Council ordered OFC to stop work after it found ‘‘significant discrepancies’’ between the approved work and proposed work.
OFC’S 2016 financial statements showed $3.1m had been spent on stage two, taking the total cost of the project to $15.9m.
Late last year the council ordered a halt at the ground after discovering ‘‘significant discrepancies’’ between the approved work and proposed work.