Sh1bn sports cash used on mobile clinics sparks fury

Wednesday March 18 2020
By IBRAHIM ORUKO

A whopping Sh1 billion was paid out from the Sports, Arts and Social Development Fund to facilitate the removal of the controversial mobile clinics from the National Youth Service yard in Miritini at a time Kenyan sport is facing a bleak future.

According to sources, the money was paid to the Ministry of Health nearly a month ago. It was used to move the containers from the yard, furnish and equip them to the required standards before they were distributed countrywide, said the source.

The revelation struck the National Assembly Committee on Sports as if it has been hit with a sledgehammer. This sparked an uproar from members who are demanding an explanation from the Fund managers.

“It’s true the money was paid to the Ministry of Health. We were told the money was used to furnish the clinics. As a committee, this is an issue of great concern to us,” committee chairman Victor Munyaka said at the weekend.

“We have no problem with the ministry being paid the money but we are concerned about the timing because it comes at a time when the sports fraternity is going through a cash crunch. This does not look good.”

Consequently, the committee has invited the managers of the Fund to shed light on the payment. Most of the members think this was unwarranted considering the history of the clinics. Kenyan sports is in dire financial straits following the recent withdrawal of key sponsors.

It was reported last week that the 99 containers, acquired at a cost of Sh800 million, had finally been moved out of the NYS yard in Miritini, where they have been lying idle since December 2015.

ASSIST PEOPLE

The containers, which have been under investigations by the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission, were procured by the Ministry to assist people living in informal settlements access medical services.

The procurement of the mobile clinics was part of the scandal in which Sh5.2 billion was lost in a deal that involved manipulation of the Integrated Financial Management System in the Health ministry.

The MPs are angry with the Fund managers because they were quick to release the money to the Ministry of Health and ignored pleas for funding by sports officials.

Legally, there is nothing wrong with the Ministry of Health getting a slice of cash from the Fund. However, apart from sports, funding is required for nearly all social programmes that include arts and universal health care.

Until its exit from Kenya, SportPesa was spending on average Sh100 million annually to finance the Kenyan Premier League (KPL). The exit of the giant betting firm has left KPL facing an uncertain future.

The company was also a direct sponsor of the country's two most popular clubs, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards to a tune of Sh66 million and Sh52 million, respectively.

Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi argues that it is the government that is responsible for the financial misfortunes in sport owing to punitive policies and taxation. He said this hostile environment forced out the betting firms.

“It is the government that is responsible for the withdrawal of sponsorship and, therefore, we must use the Sports Fund to develop sport,” Osotsi said on Tuesday.

Two months into the 2019/20 football season and clubs are feeling the heat. Some clubs have requested KPL to suspend the league because they can no longer make ends meet.

Sony Sugar failed to honour two league matches and their opponents were awarded walkovers. This is a sign of how bad things are.

SportPesa had signed a four-and-a-half-year deal worth Sh450 million with KPL in 2015. Part of the pact included renaming the league to SportPesa Premier League.

Assuming the Sh1 billion was ploughed into sport, it could run the local football league for the next 10 seasons, assuming everything remains the same.

Last week, sports federations filed a complaint to Parliament accusing Sports PS Kirimi Kaberia of frustrating them. In a letter dated October 22, they blamed the PS, who is the administrator of the fund, of failing to respond whenever requests for funding are made to his office. Associations said they have incurred huge debts while preparing teams for global events.