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FIFA Anti-Corruption Adviser Quits ‘Least Productive Project’

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April 22 (Bloomberg) -- A member of an anti-corruption group advising soccer’s governing body on reform has quit, saying it was the “least productive project” of her career.

Alexandra Wrage, president of Canada-based Trace International, a non-profit organization that provides anti-bribery compliance advice to multinational companies, had been part of FIFA’s Independent Governance Committee, a group set up in 2011 following a series of corruption scandals at soccer’s governing body.

“I resigned because it was not having any impact,” Wrage said in a telephone interview. “It’s been the least productive project I’ve ever been involved in. There’s no doubt about that.”

FIFA members will meet in May in Mauritius for their annual Congress, where they’ll vote on a package of new governance measures being created to improve transparency and promote propriety at the organization. The Zurich-based body was rocked following allegations of wrongdoing linked to the selection process for its $5 billion World Cup and claims of corruption ahead of its 2011 presidential election.

Wrage, who claimed no expense costs from FIFA during her 14-month advisory role, said going to the Congress wasn’t an option because “I’d have just been lying on the beach.”

“None of our items made it onto the agenda,” she said. “I don’t need a trip to Mauritius to have them not vote on our issues.”

FIFA didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The advisers’ recommendations that won’t be taken forward to the Congress include disclosure of senior executive pay and adding independent board members and independent integrity checks for new members to FIFA’s decision-making executive committee. Fixed age and term limits also aren’t being voted on. Instead, members will be asked if they’re in favor of such limits.

FIFA’s Idea

“The strangest thing is that people forget this was FIFA’s idea,” Wrage said. “They could have done nothing. They weathered lots of scandals before, so why do it and work to undermine the effort? I suppose they thought they were going to get easy good optics without fundamental change.”

Wrage, who’s advised several multinational companies, described FIFA as “byzantine and impenetrable” and her experience as “more baffling than frustrating.”

“This is not impossibly complicated work,” she said. “There’s widely held international best practice and they rejected them,” she said.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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