FEATURE: Integrity Officer, best thing for Ghana Football

Author: Ebo Kwaitoo

The appointment of an Integrity Officer by the Ghana Football Association (GFA) last week is the best thing to have happened to Kurt Okraku's young administration. I commend Kurt and his comrades for having the courage to take that bold step in the first place.

Though it is a requirement of FIFA for all member associations, for the new FA President to have complied with the FIFA directive at this time is enough testimony of his willingness to embrace the principles of that campaign and work hand in hand with the world soccer governing body in that regard.

In fact, I received the pleasant news last Thursday with joy, knowing too well the world of good this concept, if well implemented, could do for Ghana Football. I dare say that had something like that been introduced during Kwesi Nyantakyi's administration, he would have been spared of the controversies that characterised his tenure and eventually brought his long reign to an end.

Even before Nyantakyi's era, there were many other scandals in Ghana Football which could have been avoided had an Integrity Officer been in place.

Before I proceed, I humbly appeal to my brothers Kurt and Prosper Harrison Addo, the GFA General Secretary, to do everything in their power to enhance Mr Obed Tuffour's work in their own interest and the supreme interest of Ghana Football. If that can be done, I can assure Kurt that he can easily serve two terms in office without any controversy or scandal. He knows what I am talking about.

I am extremely happy about this latest development because I believe that is the missing link that has proved the undoing of Ghana Football since independence. For me, this should be a cause for celebration for everybody who has Ghana Football at heart, if only it can be well executed.

I welcome Mr Tuffour to this sensitive office and urge him to use this great opportunity to make a name for himself by cleaning the system to help redeem the badly damaged image of Ghana Football.

If readers can recall, this is what I talked about in a recent article titled 'Over to you, football people', in reference to a call by the Vice President, Mahamudu Bawumia, on the need to avoid tendencies such as bribery and match-fixing that can mar the beauty of the game.

Thank God the Integrity Officer's role even transcends bribery and match-fixing to contracts, sponsorship, player transfers, and other forms of manipulation which have bedeviled the Ghana game.

As is vital in every serious institution, the GFA also needs checks and balances in its daily operations which is what the Integrity Officer's office stands for. It is like the GFA's version of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) or the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO). I only pray Mr Tuffour will deliver on his mandate without fear of favour.

To define his mandate, the GFA statement said: "FIFA has recommended that all member associations should appoint an Integrity Officer who will deal with all integrity-related legal matters, as well as the risk of match-fixing and match manipulation."

"Mr Tuffour will also be responsible for the FA's Compliance Unit.

"The world football governing body is expected to send an official to train the Association’s new Compliance and Integrity Officer on his role, way of work and ways of identifying acts that might jeopardise the integrity of the game."

It said further that: "The Compliance and Integrity Officer will be the point of contact for all communications with FIFA/CAF on integrity matters and actively participate in regional integrity workshops and lead the GFA’s integrity action programme.

"He will also lead the implementation of the appropriate national reporting mechanisms and will receive reports related to potential alerts, incidents and/or suspicions."

According to the statement, "The Association’s Integrity Officer will help maintain a zero-tolerance policy towards match manipulation, match fixing and betting.

The FA followed up with a stern warning to its recalcitrant members thus: "In this regard, the GFA hereby informs all Club Officials to refrain from having any form of communication with any match official before and after any match."

"Match officials are also cautioned not to have any form of communication with any club official or a leading member of any football club before or after any match."

All these clearly indicate that the GFA has a fair idea about the problem areas which need to be tackled to purge our local game. With concerted effort, we can make a headway to provoke the love of Ghanaians for the game, which is already there, to ensure massive patronage of domestic games.

The GFA stressed that "The Association wishes to inform all that it will not entertain any excuses whatsoever when it is established that there has been communication between a match official and club official.

"Additionally, clubs, officials and all match officials are to note that there will be zero tolerance for such conduct and the consequences for such actions would be dire."

Over to you all you incorrigible football people who are spoiling the game with careless abandon.

Once Mr Tuffour has assumed duty right away, all members of the public are free to report any unethical acts or behaviour by a Club Official, Match Official or GFA Official to the Integrity Officer’s hotline on 0593371735. That is surely a serious commitment by the GFA right there.

However, I think a bounty to reward those who volunteer such vital information to the Integrity Officer won't be a bad idea at all.

Once Mr Tuffour's role is clearly defined, coupled with further training by a FIFA official on how to discharge his duties, he cannot afford to disappoint!

By and large, this is the GFA's money bag.