Report: Government’s culture of impunity is killing sports

By evelyn watta
Feb 22, 2021

A largely corrupt sporting system where financial misappropriation thrives, athletes pay officials to cover up doping offenses or gain selection to teams and conventional election malpractices, have fused with impunity to create a culture which is killing local sports.

Transparency International Kenya on Monday released the Global Corruption Report on Sport that highlighted the key challenges preventing the fight to clean up sport, with impunity labelled as the biggest hindrance to embed transparency and accountability in the governing federations.

In the 398-page report launched in Nairobi, Transparency International details the corruption risks in sport, focusing on sports governance, the business of sport and the planning of major events and also explores new approaches to strengthening integrity in sport.

Elena Paniflova Vice Chair of Transparency International Board believes that the various arms of the government must support the investigations and reports by punishing the perpetrators tos safeguard sports.

“What we hear all the time is we will sort it out. Sorting out is bring them to justice now and find other proper people to manage the sports. The culture of impunity is flourishing a lot in quite a lot of countries and the very courageous thing that we are doing and journalists are doing is demanding is that the cases should be reviewed. The Government must act. They are not difficult just painful. Let’s implant transparency and accountability in sports which will make it possible to unmask bigger corruption,” said Paniflova in reference to sections of the reports looking into African sport.

No Kenyan official charged for corruption  

The report cited a scenario where the former Football Kenya Federation president Sam Nyamweya was accused of alleged embezzlement of about Ksh. 41 million shillings but no action was taken against him after the now familiar line of ‘questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department,CID’.

Similarly, suspended Athletics president, Isaiah Kiplagat, and his deputy, David Okeyo, were also purportedly being investigated by the CID over misappropriation of close to Ksh.20 million shillings’ from the federations sponsor Nike.

However, their removal from office was only instigated by the sports governing body IAAF, which suspended the duo alongside the former treasurer Joseph Kinyua, as it opened a probe into misappropriation of the funds and alleged doping cover ups, a scandal that now threatens Kenya’s participation in the Rio Olympic games in August.

“There should be government acting when the laws are broken, that is governance. What we are telling the government is that the law should apply to the Chief of federation who stole the money as it’s not any different from the minister who has stolen money,” she reasoned.

“They (Government and Federations) are too close to each. The government does not in itself do too much good not to bring these people to justice. Because yes they potentially see it like a friendship but we call it conflict of interest.

We call it too much of bias, too much of connection. In the long run it’s a not a winning scenario. The people who are cleared from allegations now will continue which can lead to disastrous scenarios like missing the Olympic games,” added the Russian activist and researcher who also heads the Laboratory for Anti-Corruption Policy.

The report lauds the important role the sports journalists have played in highlight the cancers bedevilling world sport from corruption at the highest level of sport in FIFA and the IAAF that infiltrates national federations, Doping –that has turned the spotlight on Kenya in Africa which has had over 40 positive cases in four years-, human trafficking where young footballers from Central and West Africa are smuggled to Europe, match fixing across various sports and the chronic lack of professionalism in the management of sports.

Various sports officials led by the Chairman of the national Olympics committee Kipchoge Keino, Kenyan Premier league chairman Ambrose Rachier, Kenya Rugby Chair Richard Omwela and AK board member Barnaba Korir, Sports Commissioner Gordon Oluoch attended the launch committing to protect the integrity of sports from their points of control.

“Not a single sports federation has been registered in accordance with the sports act two years since it came into operation,” noted Oluoch insisting that the threshold of clean sports in Kenya was clearly stipulated in the act that is already gathering dust in Government shelves.