FAZ has joined the looting of taxpayers’ money

Andrew Kamanga

Being a successful businessman, respected administrator and sponsor of several football clubs, Mr Andrew Kamanga took over the reins of our country’s soccer management with a lot of admiration. His predecessor Kalusha Bwalya, despite being a celebrated sports icon in Africa, was condemned for squandering resources at the Football Association of Zambia through dubious deals and undertakings.

Even if Zambia won its maiden Africa Cup of Nations trophy under his reign, club administrators and soccer fans joined hands to kick out the ‘thieving’ Kalusha executive and ushered in the much-loved Kamanga administration. Indeed, the former African Footballer of the Year was humiliated and ridiculed, not only by soccer lovers, but by the investigation wings too.

Those who wanted Kalusha out had good reasons. At that time the football legend had been named in an international corruption dossier in which he was accused of receiving a bribe amounting to US$80, 000 to support Qatari businessman Mohammed Bin Hammam’s bid for the FIFA presidency. He was also accused of overseeing the acrimonious non-renewal of the Nike kit sponsorship deal and for corruptly meddling in the illegal issuance of an International Transfer Certificate of then under age Emmanuel Mayuka from Kabwe Warrior to Maccabi Tel Aviv, among the many questionable player deals that came to the fore. In the long run, Kalusha lost his reputation and integrity and this was aggravated by various legal challenges he faced in court including failure to pay back a debt that led to forfeiture of his mansion in Lusaka’s Woodlands area.

With this nasty fall from grace of the once national hero, the soccer governance bar was lowered. It should have been very easy for the new FAZ president to put Football House back in order and get accolades. But what is happening today under the Kamanga-led executive is not only shocking to soccer fans, but annoying to every Zambian who pays tax. It is not theft, but looting!

Undisputed leaked bank documents published by News Diggers! show how Mr Kamanga’s executive committee members paid themselves hefty allowances in 2017. For merely organising the Under-20 Africa Cup they approved a payment of K805, 000 to themselves. President Kamanga received K128, 100, his deputy Rix Mweemba was paid K103, 900, general secretary Ponga Liwewe netted K106, 100 with committee members getting: Joseph Mulenga (K60, 650), Kabaso Kapambwe (K80, 650) Elijah Chileshe (K80, 650), Brenda Kunda (K80, 650), Lee Kawanu (K64, 650) and Lombe Mbalashi (K99, 650). Another block distribution of K600, 000 was made to nine officials as payment to the Local Organising Committee for the Cosafa Under-20 tournament. Kamanga, Liwewe and Mweemba all got K100, 000 each.

Not shockingly, the current liabilities for the Football Association of Zambia have shot from K7.7 million in 2016 to K20.7 million in 2017. At the recent Annual General Meeting, the executive reported that of the K20.7 million liabilities, K6.9 million is part of trade liabilities while K13.8 million couldn’t even be broken down and was merely reported as “other payables”.

Of course there are other culprits in the ignominious FAZ debacle, like Mr Lombe Mbalashi who is employed by ZCCM –IH, and on secondment at FAZ, yet he drew a hooping allowance from Football House according to the leaked schedule. But they say the rotting of a fish starts from the head. So, why has Mr Kamanga allowed this disaster to ruin his reign, and what is his explanation?

Well, unbelievable as it sounds, the FAZ president and his executive see nothing wrong with taking these hefty allowances. In fact, they say according to the FAZ payment structure, they were supposed to be paid K2.56 million, but made a sacrifice to share ‘only’ K805, 000. In other words, the Football Association bosses are saying if their constitution allows them to approve payments, such payments cannot be illegal. That’s, even if workers at Football House have not been paid for two straight months.

They are essentially justifying the hefty allowances on the basis that the existing payment structure (which they put in place) says there is nothing wrong. Where’s the morality and did the executive ever sit to agree on the said payments? Where are the minutes? What criteria was used to arrive at these figures? Have the individuals involved paid tax to the Zambia Revenue Authority over this income?

Strangely though, these businessmen who are now running football affairs in Zambia are very annoyed that this information has leaked to the public and they have gone further to suspend suspected whistleblowers working at Football House. Why? If there is nothing wrong with these payments why don’t they want the taxpayers to know how their money is being spent? We are further told that a company owned by the FAZ president has been lending money to Football House whenever there is an emergency and that Mr Kamanga gets no interest for the loans. But is that company registered with the Bank of Zambia as a legal money lender?

Uummh! Mr Kamanga, what a way to vindicate Kalusha Bwalya. Why have you allowed this mess to happen under your watch? The bar had been set so low for you. All you needed to do was to demonstrate that you were already a comfortable businessman who was not seeking power to gain limitless access to the FAZ treasury. Surely this is embarrassing, specifically to you as head of the association. Zambians had a lot of trust and confidence in your leadership but you have let them down. We the media too, expected a lot from you, given your integrity, and you have broken our hearts.

Government spends a lot of money through its budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Sports which is deposited into FAZ coffers, and therefore, FAZ officials cannot be arrogant when the public demands answers. This money is not meant for making soccer administrators richer. It is for the development of the sport and enhancement of talent. Many youths who play football in Zambia are hardly educated, but God gave them skills to earn livelihoods. You can’t proudly be licking the Treasury with impunity and giving the real beneficiaries of the taxpayers’ money peanuts.

We demand, on behalf of the Zambian people, that the money you took as allowances, be paid back. We further call for a forensic audit into the financial transactions at Football House and culprits must be prosecuted. In this biting economy, people cannot be paying themselves allowances for sitting as if they were constructing a stadium or as if they were the ones on the technical bench if not the pitch scoring the goals. Clean that mess Mr Kamanga and focus on bringing glory to Zambia through sports instead of attracting such negative perception onto yourself. If the temptations are proving irresistible, there is no shame in stepping down!

         

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