NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 6 – Just like a game of tennis, Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario and officials of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) have been serving each other the ball of blame as to who should bear the cross of Team Kenya’s mismanagement in the just concluded Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Kenya’s team which brought home the best ever medal haul did so under harsh conditions including lack of proper accreditation, accommodation and flight issues.
But none of the two, NOCK and the Sports Ministry, took blame for any of the misfortune as they appeared before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Labor and Social Affairs on Tuesday.
Uriri Member of Parliament Engineer John Kobado, while making his remarks after Wario gave his account of what happened in Rio said the minister should as well take responsibility as all the mismanagement and alleged misappropriation of public funds took place under his watch.
But Wario was quick to defend himself, saying: “I know my responsibilities and my mandate as a Cabinet Secretary and what I have done for this ministry is enormous as clearly stated.”
The sitting started on a fiery note with Cherangany legislator Wesley Korir who was the overall team captain of the Kenyan contingent to Rio alleged that some athletes had not been paid their allowances, contrary to Wario’s statement his ministry had cleared all dues owed to the athletes.
Korir read out a text sent to him by 5,000m athlete Isaiah Koech alleging he had been sent away by ministry officials as he went out to claim his allowances, even as Sports Principal Secretary Ambassador Richard Ekai who was responsible for handling the finances of the team said everyone had been paid.
“We have records to show that the said athlete has already been paid. So I don’t know why he says he hasn’t been paid. But we had a problem with some payments bouncing because of the wrong banking details used because we paid using Internet banking,” Ekai explained.
“But as far as I know we paid out to everyone but if he (Koech) insists he hasn’t received his allowance, we will pay because we have the money to do so,” he added.
Each athlete who travelled to Rio was entitled to Sh761,000 in allowance for the entirety of the period they were at the Olympics. Wario also disclosed that the Chief de Mission Stephen Soi was given a further Sh29mn for contingency purposes in Rio.
Wario also absolved his ministry from blame on the issue of ticketing and kits saying it was purely NOCK’s jurisdiction to generate a travelling list to be made available to Kenya Airways as well as look into issues of the team’s kitting, with a contract existing between NOCK and American kit manufacturer Nike.
“We sat down as the steering committee and made a decision to use Kenya Airways and their Marketing Manager was also incorporated in the committee. It was NOCK’s duty to give a list on everyone who travels and then KQ was to issue tickets against that. I understand that some athletes booked their own flights via Europe and it was the prerogative of NOCK again to alert KQ on the tickets to be cancelled. As a ministry, our role was to facilitate the payment of these tickets purely on what NOCK advised,” Wario explained.
On the issue of kits, NOCK said it had done a good job in distributing the kits equally to every athlete, even as Wario said he had met with the Nike director in Rio and briefed him that some kit was missing.
Paul Ochieng, the NOCK second vice president who was responsible for the kits was tasked by the committee to make available a list showing all athletes who received kits and the count of what they got.
NOCK chair Kipchoge Keino threw a new twist to the case, saying Nike had provided to them kits for all 18 Olympic sports and those were the ones which were netted by CID officials who had raided the NOCK offices.
“That is where we keep our kit and all that which was found there was for sports like volleyball, tennis and others which we did not send athletes in. We give those uniforms to the respective federations and they use them for their other assignments.” Wario offered.
One thing though which both the minister and NOCK agreed on, but was hugely contested by Korir was the team’s accommodation during the final day after the Olympic Village was closed.
Wario termed the accommodation area as ‘of reasonable standard’, a claim that got Korir vehemently shaking his head.
“If where we slept is what the minister is calling reasonable, then I don’t know what reasonable is,” Korir said.
Soi, during his submissions said: “I have photos here, contrary to what Hon Korir was sharing on social media and I can say it was a reasonable place and I also put up there in room 102 while Korir spent in room 101. It was very hard to get a room in Rio at that time. That same hotel is where the Chinese volleyball team which won gold stayed in!”
Meanwhile, Wario stuck to his guns despite concerns raised by members of the committee over his decision to disband NOCK.
“NOCK is not above the law and must be guided by the Constitution of Kenya as well as the Sports Act. I wasn’t in a hurry to disband NOCK. I acted on public interest and that a lesson needs to be learnt. NOCK is not new to crisis and time has come to take action,” the Cabinet Secretary explained.
He also exuded confidence that his ministry will get audience with the IOC as he maps out a route to bring changes to NOCK including changing the constitution to be in tandem with the Sports Act.
Meanwhile, Korir says he will push on with his agenda to introduce an impeachment Motion in Parliament against Wario even as he termed the two sittings by the committee on Tuesday as ‘Public Relations’ gimmicks.