By: KWENDO OPANGA
Here’s how not to prepare for a football match in a foreign and faraway land. Here’s how the two most important agencies involved in preparing a national sports side for important matches should not behave or relate.
At 5.08 pm on Monday, November 16, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) authorised the payment of Sh9,785,000.00 to the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts whose beneficiary was Football Federation Kenya (FKF).
At that time Kenya’s football lovers had been gripped by anxiety and social media platforms were ablaze with all manner of invective directed mainly at the FKF, the umbrella football administration body, and, to a lesser extent, the parent ministry.
Harambee Stars, the national football side, had since mid-morning, been stranded at Wilson Airport. The Sh9.78 million was meant to pay for the chartered plane to fly the Stars to Cape Verde for a return World Cup qualifier the following day.
The generation of the RTGS by CBK at 5.08pm was a welcome relief. It meant Stars would travel and honour their fixture against the Islanders who they had beaten by a solitary goal on Friday. But there were two hitches. One, banks had closed an hour earlier. Second, the RTGS could only become money after 24 hours. It took the combined efforts and guarantees of CBK, Sports Ministry, FKF and interested government officials to get the money to the federation in cash.
Next, FKF officials struggled through Nairobi’s rush hour traffic to Wilson Airport. Now two things were certain; one, Skyward Express, owners of the plane, could be paid and, two, the more than 12-hour journey to Praia, Cape Verde could get underway.
There were four frequently asked questions: Will the team have any time left to prepare for the match? What caused this inordinate delay? Why did the team not travel by a commercial flight? Who is to blame for the fiasco?
Why the delay? Skyward Express would not let its plane take to the skies before it had been paid. The company needed to see money, but all it had was a letter from the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts, dated November 16, the day of travel.
Signed by the Principal Secretary, Ambassador Richard Ekai, and addressed to “Dear MD”, it was referenced: No MHC/AC/6/Vol 111(212) and headlined COMMITMENT LETTER – BALANCE US DOLLARS 95000. It read in part:
“Following a discussion with the Principal Secretary in his office, the Owner of the Company, Mr Issak Somwo, the President of the FKF and Head of Accounting Unit regarding the settlement of US Dollars 95000 for the chartering of plane (sic) to take the Harambee Stars team to Capeverde (sic) for the return play, the Ministry has undertaken a commitment to pay the amount as soon as the amount (sic) is received from the National Treasury.
“The Ministry has given an assurance that payment will be effected as discussed and agreed. We also take this opportunity to thank Mr Somwo for this good gesture of accepting to give a chartered flight to take our players to Capeverde (sic).’’
This letter shows that on the day when Harambee Stars was supposed to be travelling, the plane had not been paid for; the money was not available and all the government was making available was a letter of commitment to pay when funds are released by Treasury.
Harambee Stars is the responsibility of FKF and the Ministry of Sports. Indeed, two months ago, Sports CS Hassan Wario declared that the ministry would take charge of Stars. The team is supposed to be their pride and football flagship.
Taking charge means being in command of Stars’ preparations for national duty. Who between the federation’s and ministry’s chiefs took their eyes off the ball? On October 23, FKF wrote to Ambassador Ekai a letter referenced “Kenya vs Cape Verde – 2018 World Cup Russia Qualifier Match.”
This letter, written after Kenya’s matches against Mauritius and in anticipation of the clashes with Cape Verde on November 13 and November 17, was marked received by the ministry on October 26. It read in part: “The purpose of this letter is to seek financial support from the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts to enable the Kenya National Football Team honour this (sic) two matches. Attached herewith is the full budget for your perusal and consideration.
“We are requesting if you can pay for the air tickets, accommodation and allowances for the last match.’’ It was copied to Wario, chairman of Sports Kenya Fred Muteti and FKF President Sam Nyamweya. It was signed by FKF Secretary General Michael Esakwa.
On October 28, FKF again wrote to Ambassador Ekai under the reference World Cup Qualifier Match Kenya vs Cape Verde – preparations for the National Team Harambee Stars. It started off thus:
“The National Team Head Coach has released a provisional squad of 40 players comprising 11 professional players and 29 local players for a residential training camp on 5th November 2015, in preparation for the World Cup Qualifier matches against Cape Verde and for the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup slated for 21st November – 7th December 2015 in Ethiopia, of urgent concern is the confirmation of the travel itinerary to Cape Verde for the return match scheduled for Tuesday 17th November 2015.”
But this is the crux of the matter. FKF wrote to the ministry because it felt that it ran the risk of running out of time given the complicated routing of flights to Praia. The ministry, says FKF, had not responded to its letter of October 23 and hence the urgency:
“We had engaged Kenya Airways on the travel itinerary and settled for a routing for NBO-AMSTERDAM-LISBON-PRAIA however there was a challenge on the Lisbon-Praia section as Kenya Airways has no agreements with Airlines plying this route..It is therefore our request that you prioritise the travel arrangement for the travel for the national team.”
This letter, which was marked received by the ministry on October 29, was copied to Wario, Muteti, Acting Director General of Sports Kenya Gabriel Komora and Nyamweya. It was signed by Esakwa.
Between October 29 and November 13, it would appear that nothing had happened either by way of correspondence or action on the Stars’ travel plans. On November 14, Nyamweya himself wrote to Ekai and to the attention of Wenslas Ong’ayo, the Director of Administration Service, under the reference Travel expenses for Harambee Stars to Cape Verde.
The letter which was marked received by the ministry on November 16, a day before the return fixture, goes straight to the point:
“As you are aware and regarding our telephone conversation, it is not possible to get a flight to Cape Verde through Europe for the following reasons:
a) (The) Ministry had undertaken to do a direct booking which was changed at the last minute;
b) The booking through Europe which we had done had elapsed due to non-payment on time;
c) We only received confirmation of payment on Friday evening 13th November 2015 at 5.30pm which means we can only get money on Monday afternoon or Tuesday 17th November 2015;
d) It is not safe to pass through France due to heavy insecurity.
Note the late timing of the RTGS again. However, the import of the foregoing is that the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts had not made available funds on time for the travel of Harambee Stars to Cape Verde by a commercial airliner. This is how the chartered flight came into the picture.
Nyamweya’s tells the PS that FKF had, arising from this delay in securing funds, decided to charter a plane to Cape Verde “which will leave Nairobi tomorrow 16th November 2015 and wait for the National Team to play and bring them back on 18th November Wednesday 2015 at a cost of USD165,000, which is approximately Sh16.5m.”
He informed the PS that FKF had made arrangements to pay USD70,000 (Sh76 million) and asked him to make arrangements to pay the difference of Sh9.5 million.
He asked him to treat the matter as urgent. The letter was copied to Wario and Chief Finance Officer John Olinga. The rest, as they say, is history. Who between the ministry and FKF is the culprit?
SOURCE: DAILY NATION