Kenyan Sports Minister set to be sued over Rio Olympics scandal

Nairobi, Jan 18 (IANS) Kenyan Sports Minister Hassan Wario is set to be prosecuted over a scandal where money and kit for the Kenyan Olympic team bound for Rio de Janeiro were stolen.

According to local reports on Wednesday, Director of Public Prosecution Keriako Tobiko wants Wario and the Sports Minister’s Principal Secretary Richard Ekai in the dock to answer charges related to abuse of office, reports Xinhua.

“The persons who should bear the greatest criminal culpability for authorising (or) approving the unlawful payments are the following; Dr Hassan Wario Arero – CS, Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts (because he) chaired the Steering Committee meeting in which the budget was presented, and which had allowances which exceeded the Salary and Remuneration Commission (SRC) guidelines,” a letter from Tobiko to the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Ndegwa Muhoro on Wednesday said.

The latest development is a fresh twist in the scandal that has seen four senior National Olympics Committee-Kenya (NOCK) officials in court facing charges related to the theft of over $1,00,000 and kit from American sponsors Nike belonging to the team that went on to post Kenya’s best performance at the Rio Games — winning six gold, six silver and a bronze medal.

Wario disbanded NOCK on August 25 last year, three days after the Olympics and formed a Rio 2016 Probe Committee whose leaked report cleared him of any wrongdoing after 38 days of canvassing the country collecting evidence to unearth the scandal but pointed the finger of blame in the ministry to Ekai and NOCK officials.

However, Ekai protested his innocence saying the report that was presented to the country’s President Uhuru Kenyatta did not pass through him as the principal accounting officer in the ministry and the report is yet to be formally released to the public.

Following the scandal, Nock’s top brass led by retired athletics legend and two-time Olympics champion Kipchoge Keino, who was the first ever recipient of the Olympics Laureate Award at Rio 2016 are facing a strong tide to remove them from office.

Last week, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) recommended they be stripped of voting powers rendering them unable to decide the new office bearers in elections set for March under a new Constitution.

On Monday, the NOCK officials agreed to formally cede voting rights at an informal meeting called with affiliate federations who are agitating for their removal amid other reforms to the old order that made it virtually impossible to dislodge them from office.

The amended draft to the new constitution was mailed to International Olympic Committee later Monday and should the international governing body approves of them, a special general meeting set for February will ratify the new set of rules sounding the death knell for the incumbent officials who have been in office for decades.