By Isaack Omulo
NAIROBI (Reuters) – Large sums of money meant to cover the expenses of Kenya’s team at the Rio Olympics were misappropriated by officials, according to an investigation ordered by the country’s sports ministry.
The report, seen by Reuters, said the money had been earmarked to buy air tickets for team members, but was instead taken by unidentified ministry officials.
The report was compiled by an investigation team led by Paul Ochieng, the dean of students at Nairobi-based Strathmore University.
The report says the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) also diverted money and kit from U.S. sports equipment manufacturer Nike worth millions of shillings.
“Some (sports) ministry officials misappropriated 88,611,480 shillings ($871,190) meant for air tickets. NOCK has been misappropriating Nike contract funds and kit amounting to 126 million shillings per year meant for athletes since 2013,” the report said.
“The eight-year (2013-2020) contract between Nike and NOCK on behalf of all national teams is heavily skewed towards Nike and needs review or cancellation.”
Officials at the Ministry of Sports did not respond to telephone calls or text messages when contacted by Reuters. Nike did not return calls seeking comment.
Athletes told the investigation committee that bonuses from Nike for medals won at Olympic and Commonwealth Games did not reach them.
Athletes said Nike gives NOCK $15,000 for each gold medallist, $7,500 for each silver medallist and $5,000 for each bronze medallist, but medallists told the investigation committee they had never been given bonuses from NOCK.
Reuters was unable to confirm the specifics of Nike’s agreement with NOCK.
NOCK Chairman Kipchoge Keino said athletes dealt directly with Nike on such matters and that the ministry handled all ticketing and other financial matters.
“It’s all lies. Athletes sign for endorsement and bonuses with Nike. All we get are kit and training funding. We don’t handle athletes’ money,” he said from Doha, Qatar, where he is attending a meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees.
“It is not our duty and we did not receive any money, nothing absolutely. We have never handled such things, and it’s not in our agreement.”
The probe was commissioned by Hassan Wario, minister for sports, culture and the arts, who has in turn presented it to President Uhuru Kenyatta, according to a source familiar with the matter. It has not been officially made public.
The report recommends that action be taken against those found culpable in the misappropriation of money and that NOCK account for the money received annually from Nike on behalf of the athletes.
($1 = 101.7000 Kenyan shillings)
(Editing by George Obulutsa, Mitch Phillips and Dale Hudson)