SportSG: FAS needs tighter internal controls
New leadership of the NSA has already set up two committees to look into governance issues
Local sports governing body, Sport Singapore (SportSG), has called for Lim Kia Tong's Football Association of Singapore (FAS) council to conduct a thorough review of its governance processes.
This comes in the wake of the drama surrounding the lead-up to the FAS election on April 29 that saw the clubhouses of three football clubs - Tiong Bahru FC, Woodlands Wellington and Hougang United - raided, along with FAS' Jalan Besar headquarters.
Questions were also raised about the processes that saw a $500,000 donation from Tiong Bahru pass through the FAS to the Asean Football Federation.
A SportSG spokesman said in response to queries from The New Paper: "SportSG will be meeting the new FAS council soon to emphasise that they must ensure that their governance review is comprehensive and robust.
"We will be requiring the council to report the findings and recommendations from that review and we will be monitoring the implementation of tighter internal controls.
"We will also discuss their future plans for football, which include the S.League."
Just a week after winning the mandate from its 44 affiliates, the new FAS council has already made moves to ensure a tightening of their processes.
Said FAS vice-president Edwin Tong: "We agree that this is the priority, and we've already made it a priority.
"Steps have been taken and are already underway within days of the election."
He revealed that two committees have already been set up to look into the FAS' internal and external governance matters.
Said Tong: "The first committee is to look at our internal processes, with outsiders invited to look at it, and if necessary, have external parties like consultancies with the mandate conduct a thorough review, leaving no stone unturned so that we don't have any blind spots."
This committee is led by FAS deputy president Bernard Tan and council member Kelvin Teo.
Tong added: "The second committee is to look at how we manage our affiliates - how we can have better oversight in our regulation of affiliates, and also how we can have better communication with them so that we're closer to these clubs, and are more aware of what they need."
The external governance committee will be headed by council members Darwin Jalil and Yakob Hashim.
Tong said that a comprehensive review will take time.
"(FAS president) Kia Tong and (vice-president) Teo Hock Seng have already said they'd take about three weeks to look into the S.League, but this (governance review) is a fairly lengthy process," said the lawyer.
"This is likely to take two months, maybe even longer, because a third party has to come in, understand our processes first, before reviewing them."
An ongoing governance issue that has been raised by some in the football fraternity is the FAS' support for its general secretary Winston Lee.
All three clubs raided were linked to Bill Ng, who was a candidate for FAS president and head of Game Changers - a team which lost the election by 30 votes to 13.
Ng was arrested and released on bail for an alleged misuse of club funds, along with Lee and former FAS president Zainudin Nordin. But the FAS has already said that Lee will continue in his role in the organisation for now.
Professor Mak Yuen Teen, a corporate governance expert from the National University of Singapore Business School, asserted that there are no right or wrong answers for situations like these, saying it is not immediately apparent if the FAS should put Lee on a leave of absence or allow him to carry on his work.
"If the council is of the view that the governance and transparency of FAS during Lee's time is an issue, then it should probably take action to replace him as part of changing the culture," said Prof Mak, whose queries saw a corporate governance audit launched into SingPost in 2015.
"Some of the council's comments seem to hint at broader issues with the work environment and transparency.
"However, if it believes that the investigation is the only question mark and there are no broader systemic problems, then putting him on leave or replacing him before the outcome is known may be denying him natural justice."