By Kelvin Njuguna Mugwe
The Kenyan society is hopelessly devoid of unity and this has been occasioned by the absence of unifying factors that inspire consensus. One interesting phenomenon, however, offers priceless solace: sports. The effect of sports on the Kenyan society cannot be over-emphasized. Sports has had the unrivalled effect of making Kenyans retract from their detestable tribal cocoons and sing one unified song of praise and love for fellow countrymen.
But this effect is not limited to the temporary stitching of the riddled Kenyan fabric; according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) the sporting sector will increase its earnings twofold to Sh12 billion by 2017. Its fiscal importance is thus huge. As such, sports generally, and proceeds of the same, should be guarded jealously. However, bodies tasked with the task growing and protecting sporting talent have often done the opposite and their ineptitude has had undesirable outcomes. The dearth of accountability and transparency in these bodies will be the focus of this article.
The 8th Edition of Black’s Law Dictionary indicates that being accountable is synonymous to responsibility and being answerable. It defines transparency as “openness; clarity; lack of guile and attempts to hide damaging information”. These essential virtues are absolutely alien to the bodies handling our sports. They are not only incompetent but also inherently opaque in how they carry out their operations. Worse still, they do all these out of the comfort that they are immune to chastisement.
A cloud of shame stills hangs over officials from Athletics Kenya and the Ministry of Sports, in their handling of the Doping Bill. Government was given precise guidelines by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that were to be incorporated into the Doping Bill; all that was required of Parliament was to copy and paste what had been presented before forwarding the Bill to the President for assent. The otherwise simple and straightforward guidelines proved shockingly convoluted in the eyes of these officials. It cannot also be dismissed that the officials were deliberately mischievous if notes exchanged between WADA and the Ministry are anything to go by. Apparently, there was inclusion of clauses that provided a platform for significant mutilation and additions that could pave way to the clamping of civil liberties.
Perfected the art of failure
This mistake was promptly followed by desperate trips by officials from the Ministries of Sports and Foreign Affairs, who flew to Canada to meet the global watchdog. The high-powered delegation unnecessarily wasted resources in their attempts to rectify self-inflicted harm. These sordid events had been preceded by numerous accusations by Parliament levelled against the Ministry, and touching on non-disclosure of the recommendations made by WADA which hindered them from fast-tracking the passage of the Doping Bill. This accusation, coupled by the lethargic nature of the Ministry officials, paints the picture of an ineffectual team that, despite the obvious shortcomings, still sits pretty in office, probably waiting for another shameful engagement.
These massive failures are not unique only to athletics. The Football Kenya Federation (FKF) has perfected the art of failure. Its officials do so without flinching and like their colleagues from other disciplines, they expect no reprimand. Constructive and unconstructive criticisms, and at times insults, have become music to their ears and thus they remain happily unperturbed by their copious inadequacies. The Kenyan football team continues to plummet in spectacular fashion despite the fact that significant amounts have been emptied from our coffers. Their personification of incompetence has subjected Kenya to utter embarrassment and this was in full display when they oversaw the inclusion of five ineligible players who were to represent the nation in the under-20 African Championship qualifiers. An unnecessary punishment in the form of a fine by the Confederation for African Football (CAF) quickly followed. This grubby event came hot in the heels of an ingenious decision made by the Sports Dispute Tribunal which was determining whether to disband FKF for blatantly violating the Sports Act 2013. FKF had refused to adhere to Section 50(3) of the Act, which provides that an existing sports organisation that does not apply for registration within the time prescribed shall not be recognised as a sports organisation. In keeping true to their precedents of failing ad nauseam, FKF had abdicated its responsibility of registering the body in time and was subsequently fined unnecessarily by the tribunal.
The question that ordinarily arises in relation to the aforementioned is why there is total inaction against officials of the federation. FKF thrives in its incompetence largely because of the non-interference policy that has been adopted by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Article 17 of the FIFA Constitution explicitly provides that each Member shall manage its affairs independently and with no interference from third parties. A contrary position to this invites a ban of up to two years. This autonomous nature of FKF could be possibly the reason why it executes its mandate in a rather asinine manner.
FIFA has previously demonstrated that they mainly interfere in federation’s activities when dealing in financial propriety only. The performance or non-performance thereof by the federation officials in other sectors is of no concern to them. They also frown upon any attempts by government to put in order messed up federations. In light of this, government is left as a mere observer as rogue officials continue to oversee the rot in football.
The Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) has also had its fair share of criticism stemming out financial impropriety and total absence of transparency. Unlike the FKF, which seems to have developed a phobia for success, KRU has enjoyed remarkable success. In the process, it has managed to attract priceless corporate support that other disciplines in sports yearn for. However, misappropriation of funds got the better of them with most of the money ending up in the pockets of the greedy officials. Players are believed to have suffered in silence as allowances due to them remained unpaid, and if not for their unparalleled passion for the game, rugby would have been thrown in total disarray. Surprisingly, the only meaningful action taken to keep in check the kleptomaniac inclined individuals has been taken by telecommunications company Safaricom, which withdrew its sponsorship of rugby events. Meanwhile, government is happy to dispatch delegations to the airport to receive victorious Kenyans after posting tweets that demonstrate sports illiteracy.
Government has often looked hapless in demanding accountability and transparency from sports bodies, a situation probably contributed to by the fact that it has often acquiesced to thieving and opaqueness through its inaction. This unfortunate state of affairs should not be condoned any longer, and a hands-on approach should be duly adopted when dealing with sporting matters.
Bodies such as FKF, which claim independence under the disguise of the FIFA Constitution, should be dealt with in an ingenious manner as the Rwandese did by compelling football officials to sign resignation letters and subsequently ensuring competent officials took office. However, leaving these bodies to run as they wish will continue to produce unpleasant outcomes both in relation to income generation and national unity.