The country is paying an unacceptably heavy price for allowing rapacious, self-serving individuals to dominate the running of national sports associations. And nowhere is their malfeasance so acutely felt than at the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) where officials of this committee and others from independent sports associations held a general assembly where they rejected an amended constitution in favour of holding onto the badly drafted document to run the organisation.
The repercussions were swift and harsh. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) — the body that superintends over all national Olympic committees globally — announced that it would withhold funding to NOCK as it awaits for the enactment of an amended constitution that includes clauses that were deliberately included to drive reforms in the institution.
IOC’s displeasure was expected. It had brokered a truce between the government and NOCK after the Ministry of Sports banned the national association when it emerged that NOCK had mismanaged finances and mishandled the athletes it was supervising in last year’s Olympic Games in Rio. As part of the truce, it was agreed that the ban be lifted to allow NOCK hold fresh elections this month after amending its constitution and introduce clauses that would level the playing field.
Regrettably, the NOCK General Assembly was unable to raise the two thirds majority vote to push through the new constitution that would have denied members of the executive holding two votes during elections. Subsequently, the old constitution will remain in force; without the clauses that make it difficult to remove discredited members of the NOCK executive whose chance of re-election is significantly higher than that of other candidates.
The upshot is that stakeholders will have to work with these much-maligned officials for a long time to come. This is an outrage and stakeholders must find a way out of this bind. They should not allow a bunch of unscrupulous individuals to be entrusted with managing young sports men and women and leveraging on the country’s image as an athletics powerhouse for self aggrandizement.
Many of these officials are already facing criminal charges before the courts but have managed to stay in office because IOC rules forbid their ouster even though it is clear that many of them are feathering their own nest. Even as the litigation process goes on, fresh evidence has emerged that some senior NOCK officials have authorised scholarships to be issued to their wards without the authorisation of the NOCK board. These officials have continued to make other decisions bordering on the criminal. And even though they are facing charges in court, they have remained in office, when natural justice would dictate that they recuse themselves so that investigations are not interfered with.
Court cases involving members of NOCK must be expedited to stop the perpetration of new crimes. And where investigations are ongoing, they must be fast-tracked so that those behind the Rio Games fiasco are brought to book. There should be no sacred cows during these investigations, whether they involve NOCK officials or others in government who are suspected to have hand a hand in their crimes.
Part of the problem has been that some of those charged to conduct investigations have been mentioned adversely in the probe — and this includes Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario, who, the Director of Public Prosecutions says should be charged with abuse of office over the loss of over Sh100 million relating to the Rio Games.
Ironically it will now fall on Wario to deal with the crisis triggered by the NOCK General Assembly vote, a crisis that includes a possible ban for Kenya’s Olympic team from future games.
There seems to be no way out of this crisis. But even as we await for the IOC to make its intention known, we should use this opportunity to enact laws that lock out volunteers with dubious records from running sports associations.