PD Correspondent @PeopleDailyKe
The recent report by Auditor General Edward Ouko revealing that Sh1.7 billion could not be accounted for during the 2017 World Under-18 Championships in Nairobi and other scandals within the State Department for Sports reinforced the culture of impunity.
The reports show that besides poor management, the Sports department is being used as conduit for personal gain by a few public officers, their friends and co-conspirators who exclusively “offer” services and goods.
The scandal earned the moniker “Wa-Rio Scandal” because the then Cabinet secretary for Sports, Hassan Wario, was held responsible for the mess.
This was partly in reference to another scandal at the Ministry, the 2016 Rio Olympics debacle about which the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji on Friday recommended the arrest and prosecution of Wario, the then Principal secretary Richard Ekai and top officials linked to the scam.
Wario and Ekai were appointed ambassadors after the last General Election. According to multiple sources with knowledge of state of affairs at the State Department for Sports, signs that Wario’s tenure was headed for trouble started in 2013 when Kenya celebrated its 50th anniversary
“A non-civil servant was appointed CEO for Kenya @50 celebrations, yet he had no requisite knowledge of government operations and procedure,” said a source.
“The CEO did not understand government rules and procedure, made unilateral decisions, made payments arbitrarily, with apparent connivance with the CS. By the time things went completely out of control and Saima Ondimu, then Senior Assistant Secretary tasked to run the show, so much damage had been done,” he said.
The [email protected] scandal was followed by two global athletics competitions in Beijing and Nanjin, China, where the government paid for travel and accommodation, which had already been paid for by International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). The expenses are traditionally covered as grants to select member federations such as Athletics Kenya (AK).
Why the double payments were made was not properly explained, but can only be a subject of conjecture. After it was made public in the Kenyan media, the money was supposed to be refunded, but there is no evidence that this happened.
The then AK President, Isaiah Kiplagat, who died in August 2016, and his long-serving secretary general and later Vice-President David Okeyo, were been banned for life by IAAF for flouting integrity rules, for, among other issues, diverting funds donated by Nike for personal use.
Joseph Kinyua, then treasurer, was also found guilty of the same offence, but was let off the hook because he was not bound by the ethics rules attached to Okeyo and Kiplagat, then members of the Council of IAAF.
It was under Wario’s watch that Nyayo National Stadium and Kasarani were closed at the same time, ostensibly for renovations for the World Under 18 Championships. Nyayo’s running surface was, prior to this, so poorly done that the surface peeled off in a matter of weeks.
The contractor, who did questionable job on the artificial turf at Nyayo, was awarded the contract anyway.
Billboards that were put up for the World Under 18 Championships at Kasarani are still there, more than one year after the event took place, raising questions about financial prudence of the decision. In the meantime advertisers are getting “free” publicity more than a year after the event was held.
“There was evident lack of professional input in major decision making or professional negligence that the departments charged with management was completely ignored,” a source say.
“No lessons have been learned following the sandals in the ministry since 1987 when an American called Dick Berg stole public money and ran away (during the All Africa Games). What is bothering observers is why non-ministry staff are hired to handle key assignments, despite the precedent by Dick Berg, and yet the ministry has its technical officials in the Department of Sports,” the source added.
The 2007 World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa, [email protected] and the recent World Under-18 are just a few events where outsiders were hired as CEOs with resultant management problems.
“Either the ministry does not learn from past mistakes or some people high up are complicit in these scandals,” said a source who understands government operations.
Peter Kaberia took over as Sports Principal secretary four months to the championships with so much gusto that he and the CS relocated to Kasarani where new offices were refurbished and furnished for them.
A few weeks to the championships, the then Interior CS Joseph Nkaiserry was appointed to give the event the impetus it required to deliver a successful event.
With the arrival of Nkaissery, things changed. The momentum went up, enthusiasm among members became evident and work started moving faster and deadlines were met.
In one famous closed-door address when he toured Kasarani to inspect progress of preparations, Nkaissery reportedly read the team, including LOC officials and Wario, the Riot Act.
“I have intelligence report that you people are just chasing per diem then you go partying in bars. Some of you just attend meetings, even that which don’t concern you. Get it from me, from now on work must be done. Those are the instructions I have from my boss. If things are not done properly, you will be jailed,” Nkaissery reportedly said.
In his second tour of the Kenyatta University facilities, Nkaisery, apparently well briefed on the goings on, declined to be guided around. He told officials who wanted to guide him around to “go and do your work. I don’t want people to follow me around.”
His death in July 2017, therefore, may have come as a big relief for the cartels who proceeded to dig their fangs into the public pie.
Before that, officials were invariably competing for trips around the country and abroad, what with attendant personal benefits and adventure.
The long and the short is that Wario’s tenure at Kencom House Second Floor sank the ministry to new depths, that will take quite some time to salvage.
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