Imelda Munster said she could not have confidence in the chairman Kieran Mulvey and chief executive John Treacy when they were in charge of oversight at the time of the FAI scandal.
She criticised the extension of their contracts in their roles, alleging the extensions were “in breach” of government guidelines in relation to state bodies.
The government agreed last month to reappoint Mr Mulvey as chairman for two years and to extend Mr Treacy’s contract as chief executive until the end of next year.
Mr Mulvey has been in post since 2010, while Mr Treacy has been in his role since 1999.
Sport Ireland was formed in 2015 as an amalgamation of the Irish Sports Council and the National Sports Campus Development Authority.
Ms Munster said: “You were in charge of oversight at the time of the scandal in the FAI and it wasn’t yourselves that brought that to the fore. IT was investigative journalism that brought that to the fore.”
She added: “I would have no confidence in what you refer to as strong governance because you don’t have a record of practicing strong governance or standing over strong governance or adhering to it for that matter particularly in relation to the FAI.”
In response, Mr Treacy said Sport Ireland places a “strong emphasis” on the corporate governance of sporting organisations.
The chief executive added that Sport Ireland “did not have oversight” of the FAI at the time.
“We weren’t auditing the FAI’s overall finance because we were only giving them a small bit of money at that time. It was only when FAI agreed to let us audit that the auditors went in,” he told the committee.
In response to further questioning from Ms Munster, Mr Treacy told the committee that he had not been interviewed for the role in 2016, he had been appointed, and that he was not interviewed prior to his contract being extended this year.
“We’re involved in a pandemic, we needed to keep the stability,” he said.
But Ms Munster argued that pandemic was not a valid reason for the extension of the contracts.
She said: “The reason the minister [for Sport] had cited for your extension as term as CEO and Mr Mulvey as chair was that the pandemic and other factors of that, that it didn’t go to an open process. But sure you didn’t go to an open process in 2016 either so the pandemic isn’t a reason. It wasn’t best practice. You hadn’t done it in 2016.”
Ms Munster added: “But there was no interview there was no open process and you’re sitting there for 22 years because that appears to me to be a breach of guidelines under the Sports Ireland Act and indeed the appointment of state boards.”
Chairman Kieran Mulvey said in light of the FAI situation, Sport Ireland was bringing about “stricter corporate governance arrangements not just for the FAI but all governing bodies under the code of practice for charitable organisation”.
He added: “This is a challenge not just for the sports sector but it’s a national challenge to us.”
Fianna Fail’s Marc MacSharry questioned whether Mr Mulvey or Mr Treacy had sought reappointment.
Mr Mulvey said: “I did not seek reappointment. I indicated to the minister that I did not wish to serve for a further five-year term which was a provision under the statute and that in light of the circumstances that were existing I was prepared to serve for another two year period if the minister so deemed.”
Mr Treacy told the committee: “I said to the board and Kieran that I’d be happy to stay for another year if it was requited. That is what I said. Obviously there was an issue around the pandemic and the 85 million we were allocating so we needed a bit of continuity.”
He added that it was “my intention to leave this year at the end of this year and I’d love to have been leaving this year but circumstances changed”.
The Sports Ireland representatives were before the committee on Wednesday to give an update on the impact of Covid-19 on sport.
Mr Mulvey told the committee that a Covid-19 vaccine was “crucial” to a “vibrant” sporting activity next year.
“The state of Irish sport is in a good place in terms of funding arrangements that have been made,” he said.
“They’ve been very resilient during the Covid period and hopefully with our return to sport protocols that we will have developed we hope we’ll have a vibrant sporting activity over 2021. I think the vaccine is crucial to this.”
TDs and senators heard that Sport Ireland was “on target” when it comes to preparing for the Tokyo Olympics next year.
“We will have big emphasis next year particularly in the first six months of next year on all the international competitions that were put off this year,” Mr Mulvey said. “We’ll need those for some of our athletes of qualify.”
Mr Treacy said athletes were “very resilient” and that when plans are put off, they readjust those plans.
“They’re very good planners as well and that’s what training is all about planning properly,” he said.