29 November 2016

Kenya: Police Question Wario and Sports Chiefs Over Sh88 Million Rio Games Scandal

Photo: Hon Wesley Korir
Location where Kenyan olympics team spent a night after closure of Olympics village.

Police have questioned Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario and other senior officials in the ministry over the disappearance of Sh88 million meant for Kenyan athletes in the recent Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations moved into the Kencom House offices of the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts on Friday, where they interviewed Dr Wario for about four hours.

And on Monday, the officers questioned the ministry's director of administration, Mr Harun Komen, and Mr Wesley Maritim, the chief of staff, as a team investigating the controversial Olympic outing recommended action against government officials who misappropriated Sh88,611,480 in an air ticketing fraud.

The Daily Nation learnt that the detectives have also been looking for Dr Richard Ekai, the ministry's principal secretary, but had not interviewed him by Monday evening.

The report by the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games Probe Committee accuses Kenya's steering committee for the games of abdicating its work and allowing the plundering of resources and mismanagement by Olympic officials.

Dr Ekai was the chairman of the steering committee, which was expected to meet at least 10 times to prepare Kenya's participation at the Olympics, but ended up meeting only twice.

On Friday, DCI officers spent the better part of the afternoon questioning Dr Wario as a dispatch from State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu indicated that President Uhuru Kenyatta would officially release details of the probe report and announce the way forward for Kenya's beleaguered sports management later in the week.

WARIO QUESTIONED

The Nation learnt on Monday that a senior State House official was unhappy with the fact that Dr Wario had been questioned on Friday, while his Principal Secretary Dr Ekai, who signed the ticketing contract with Green Bay Travel Limited, was yet to record a statement with the police.

After being briefed on the contents of the Rio report on November 4, President Kenyatta is said to have given Director of Criminal Investigations Ndegwa Muhoro and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keriako Tobiko two weeks to corroborate the probe committee's findings and report back to him.

On Monday, Mr Esipisu said in his statement: "The Ministry of Sport and Culture is expected to hand over the report on the 2016 Rio Olympics challenges to the President this week.

"The report is known to focus on issues of governance and systemic problems within sport in the country. The President will pronounce himself on the way forward when he receives the report.

In the meantime, a team from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Office of the DPP have continued their investigations into the matter with a view to bringing to justice people that may be responsible for any wrongdoing," the statement added.

"Only last week, one more sports personality was charged with regard to the Rio affair," said the statement in reference to National Olympic Committee of Kenya (Nock) vice-chairman Ben Ekumbo, who was on Monday denied bail after being arrested last week at his Nairobi home by police who confiscated kits meant for the Kenyan teams supplied by American sportswear firm Nike.

The Rio Olympics fiasco has driven a wedge between Dr Wario and Dr Ekai, with sources at the ministry's headquarters saying the two have largely remained out of office since the investigating committee handed over its report to the minister on October 28.

PROBE COMMITTEE FORMED

The probe committee was formed by Dr Wario through Kenya Gazette notice number 7176 of September 9, 2016, to look into various issues regarding Kenya's preparation for and participation in the games.

Dr Paul Ochieng, the dean of students at Nairobi's Strathmore University, chaired the investigating team that included legendary marathon runner Ibrahim Hussein and former Kenyan international athletes, Mrs Elizabeth Olaba and Mrs Rose Tata-Muya. Other members were Mr Elias Makori, a journalist and Mr John Njogu, a lawyer at the ministry.

The report recommends an audit on how the ministry paid for venue entrance tickets and meals from an imprest budget for members of Parliament and other government officials, yet they had already been paid their allowances by the National Assembly and respective ministries.

Mr Patrick Kimathi, the ministry's chief accounting officer at the games, was given an imprest of Sh22,540,800 to use at the games and he returned Sh10,140,000 to the ministry.

"He could have saved more had he not used imprest to pay for MPs and other government officials' meals and the venue gate fee," says the report, which points out unfairness in the selection of teams to the games, especially rugby and athletics. It also reveals details of a fight between members of the women's rugby team over cash incentives paid by President Kenyatta to players.

The report, seen by the Daily Nation, also waded into the poor facilities Team Kenya was given in pre-competition camps at the High Performance Training Centre in Eldoret, the Nandi Bears Club in Nandi Hills town and at Eldoret's Kipchoge Keino Stadium.

According to the report, the committee discovered that the ministry signed a ticketing deal with Green Bay Travel Ltd of Nairobi to provide air tickets at a much higher price than Kenya Airways had quoted.

SECURE TICKETS

Noc-K secured a deal with Kenya Airways for $ 1,750 (Sh175,000) return ticket per person in economy class to the Rio Olympics and communicated the same to the ministry who told them they would follow up and secure the tickets.

However, the total payment for the tickets ended up being Sh154,541,280, which was Sh88,611,480 more than Noc-K's quote.

"Action should be taken against those culpable in the misappropriation of the Sh88,611,480 at the ministry and also Nock should account for the Sh126 million per year they receive from Nike on behalf of athletes," Dr Ochieng says in his summary.

According to the investigating team, from the pricing of Sh175,000 that Nock had negotiated for economy class tickets, Green Bay Travel increased the rates to Sh445,381.

Business class rates were quoted at Sh800,000 but Green Bay Travel placed charged a massive Sh2,028,385 per ticket.

Even though the ministry paid Green Bay Sh154,541,280 for the tickets, the travel firm ended up paying Kenya Airways Sh65,929,800 hence the huge disparity of Sh88,611,489.

"It is clear that the ministry of sports didn't choose the best prices, they instead went for a higher price. The motive for choosing a high price is not known," says the report, which also says that Mr Vincent Kinyili Paul, the son of Nock secretary-general Francis Kinyili Paul, travelled to the games at the expense of the ministry although he wasn't part of Team Kenya.

The probe committee recommends that Mr Paul should refund the ticket money and that the police and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) be invited to investigate further on the excess payment to Green Bay Travels.

"A thorough audit must be done on the process followed by ministry to award Green Bay Travels the tender to supply tickets at exorbitant prices," says the report.

The report found that athletes were paid at rates above the standard set by the Salaries and Remunerations Commission.

"All officials and accompanying staff were paid for more days than they were in Brazil. This is an anomaly that should not be allowed to happen in future," said the report. Each of the 80 athletes in team Kenya got Sh761,833.

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