Official had Sh25m in Rio as Catherine Ndereba went without food

The chaperon of the Kenyan team Catherine Ndereba before the Labour Committee of the National Assembly. (Photo: Moses Omusula/Standard)

A top athletics official walked around with Sh25 million in Rio as athletes were treated to deplorable living conditions during the Olympic games in Brazil.

Emotions ran high Wednesday as MPs were treated to the shocking testimony of how the Head of Mission to the Rio Olympics, Mr Stephen Soi, walked around with the huge amount of money.

This happened even as former marathoner Catherine Ndereba, who was the chaperon of the Kenyan team, was locked out of the Olympic village without food and money.

Ms Ndereba Wednesday gave an emotional account of how she was treated to a game of musical chairs by athletics officials, who gave her two tickets to Rio, before ending up in the city only to be locked out of the Olympic village.

Ndereba spent a night without dinner, breakfast and had to borrow money from Soi, who admitted before the committee that he had carried the cash from Kenya “for accommodation of Sports ministry officials and Members of Parliament”.

“After being appointed the chaperon of the team, the dates of travel were moved every now and then. When I got to Rio, I did not have accreditation. We spent the night without dinner,” she said.

Ndereba said she had a heated exchange with the official, who said she had to sign an agreement that she would repay the debt.

‘Soi gave me 500 Brazilian Real (Sh15,000) and told me I had to sign an agreement that I will return the money,’ said Ndereba.

“We exchanged words with Soi, and he said I had pushed myself to come to Rio yet I was not supposed to come....I felt so bad, I felt that some people were more important than others,” she said.

Ndereba was among athletes who could not access the athletics village despite being considered one of the primary officials of the team.

Several athletes, including Javelin thrower Julius Yego were also left behind due to confusion in the run-up to the games.

“I didn’t want the marathon race to go on without me because I felt there was something I could do...when the athletes did not find me, they were so disturbed. They asked me if they could send me food. Being the chaperon, I needed to be where the athletes were,” said Ndereba.

Soi said that the money he carried to Rio was part of accommodation for MPs and Sports ministry officials. Another Sh4 million also meant for athletes’ medicine.

“Not all the Sh25 million has been spent. We still have another Sh8 million remaining which needs to be returned,” he said. Soi however could not explain why NOCK had to get accommodation for MPs yet they had been sponsored by Parliament.

“We want to know how the money was withdrawn and how it was spent,” said the chair of the committee David Were (Matungu).

Soi claimed the money was mysteriously transferred to National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) account, but could not explain who the signatories to the account were.

NOCK’s first vice-President, Ben Ekumbo, was the first to raise the issue of the money, forcing members to question why some NOCK members had been kept in the dark over the transactions.

Anne Njambi, who was in charge of athletes’ ticketing, said she worked under instructions from Nock Deputy secretary General James Chacha to change athletes’ travel dates. This was after some of the athletes, including Ndereba and Yego allegedly made separate travel arrangements to Rio.

Ms Njambi broke down as she explained the confusion that dogged travel arrangements, arguing that she did nothing wrong.