By Steve Keating
VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Funds allocated to the development of women's soccer will be
closely monitored with random audits to ensure the money is going where it should, world soccer's governing body FIFA said on Thursday.
With FIFA engulfed in corruption, bribery and money laundering scandals, Mayrilian Cruz-Blanco, FIFA's senior women's football development manager, told a news conference there were strict guidelines on where money from a Financial Assistance Program (FAP) would go and how it would be spent.
"The Financial Assistance Program is very well monitored, every year before the funds are released the member associations have to submit the project where they want to spend this funding," said Cruz-Blanco.
"A minimum 15 percent they must be able to allocate (to women's soccer projects) ... and we check that 15 percent is allocated before we give them more funding from the women's Football Development Program.
"For every member association it is compulsory they do an audit.
"Also FIFA does a random audit on a number of countries to be sure the funding goes to the right place."
FIFA invests about $900 million a year in soccer projects around the world, though Cruz-Blanco defended the practice of only committing 15 percent to women's programs.
"The number (15 percent) is an encouragement, it is just a minimum percent," she said, adding that 177 countries invest over $38 million in the women's game annually.
"It started in 2004 at five percent ...and it was a message from FIFA that funds had to be invested into women and girls.
"At the time there was not so much interest but interest has grown and we have obviously increased that.
"We see that member associations are investing more-and-more of that financial assistance into women's football."
She also pointed to a growing number of specific programs for women, with FIFA unveiling a leadership course during the ongoing women's World Cup in Canada, while a three-day symposium will be held in Vancouver ahead of the July 5 final.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)