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After Maputo Probe Committee report, what next?

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Writing in the Kenyan Newspaper, “Standard on Sunday, “on February 26, 2012, journalist Omulo Okoth argued that the Parliamentary Probe on Kenya’s participation in the 2011 All Africa Games should be extended to cover previous Games.

Like Okoth, many Kenyans still believe that a probe on that nation’s infamous hosting of the 4th edition of the All Africa Games in 1987 is long overdue.

Indeed many Kenyans still feel that their nation is yet to fully recover from that particular scandal which interestingly involved some of the officials who are currently sitting on the Parliamentary Probe investigating the 2011 Games, 24 years later.

But one particular paragraph in Okoth’s article “Get to the bottom of previous Games, too” caught my attention and it had to do with his description of the role that the Kenya National Sports Council (KNSC), the equivalent of the National Sports Authority of Ghana (NSA), plays in organising sportsmen/women for games.

“The Kenya National Sports Council (KNSC) is virtually idle for four years. But they are hyper-active in the year of the African Games, ready to ‘prepare’ and ‘manage’ the teams for the Games.”

He added, the “National Olympic Committee becomes an unwanted guest on the table during that year, even though they still have to kit the teams.”

The bigger question though comes when the writer asked whether there is a web of business association between government officials and suppliers of goods and services during such times. Conspiracy theory!!

Surely Okoth was writing about Kenya but in several respects, he could have easily been describing what actually happened in Ghana last year, in what has been described as the “Maputo disaster.” It’s a small world!

Just like the case of Kenya, the National Sports Authority completely took over the preparation and organisation of Team Ghana’s trip to Maputo, Mozambique, leaving the Board of the NSA and the Ministry of Youth and Sports, both on the periphery.

During the over one-month that the Maputo Probe Committee sat, lots of stories were heard about the misery of our national sportsmen/women at the Games due to the lack of proper preparation, planning and organisation on the part of the NSA.

But the NSA defended itself blaming the proximity of the Unity Games to the All Africa Games, the absence of a viable Ghana Olympic Committee for almost two years and the purported late release of funds from government for the problems our team encountered.

Available records though indicate that the NSA submitted the budget for the Games on August 9, 2011 and got the requisite approval on August 12, 2011. So it cannot be true that late release of funds by the government or fixture congestion were to blame?

Again, it also came to light that officials of the NSA were made aware of Ghana’s indebtedness to the organisers of the Games well ahead of time. Infact Ghana’s Chef de Mission was invited on three occasions to a meeting with the organisers before the competition commenced, all to no avail.

He did not attend those meetings and thereby left the Ghanaian contingent exposed to the problems they encountered in Maputo.

Apparently, team Ghana failed in its obligation to pay its participation fees during the 2007 Games in Algiers, Algeria, therefore the organisers were bracing up for a big fight this time around.

The NSA failed to heed the warning signs so team Ghana’s allotted apartment accommodations in the Games village were given out to other teams who had paid, when accommodation problems set in for the Maputo organizers.

Meanwhile, back home, our athletes and officials were facing untold difficulties trying to secure flights to Maputo via South Africa. Unknown to many, a top official of the NSA single handedly awarded a contract worth $650,000.00 to Royal Derby Tours without recourse to the Procurement Act which requires bids from at least three companies.

That single act led to botched flight arrangements, stranded officials and sportsmen/women at O.R. Tambo Airport in South Africa, and several untold hardships which saw members of Team Ghana begging for food and money at some international airports.

The task of lifting 200 athletes and officials became quite odious in the end than it should have been in the first place. It also meant Ghana had to pay more money to secure flight arrangements to Maputo since demand was quite high at the time of the games.

Things could have been much smoother if the NSA through its agent had booked flights prior to departure.

There were more problems for Team Ghana on arrival in Maputo as no proper accommodation arrangements had been done for them which meant everyone had to fend for themselves with little help from the leader of Ghana’s delegation who was accused variously of reckless expenditure.

Ghana’s participation fee was only paid upon the arrival of the Head of the NSA, Worlanyor Agra in Maputo, but it was not without some level of controversy.

Per the official calculation, Team Ghana was asked to pay $150,000.00 as a collective unit but the leader of Ghana’s delegation allegedly paid $32,000.00 more, having collected the said amount from the accountant of the Ministry of Youth and Sports who was attached to the male and female football teams. So the additional $32,000 raises questions about how much Ghana actually owed and how much we actually paid.

Among other things, it also came up during the Maputo Probe sitting that the NSA overpaid a catering service provider, Trafic Catering Service to the tune of ¢48,000.00 due to poor supervision of feeding of athletes and officials in the lead up to the Games.

In the words of the Maputo Probe Committee, set up by the Minister of Youth and Sports to investigate Ghana’s preparation and performance at the All Africa Games, “it is difficult to eliminate the theory that the leadership of the Sports Council preferred a more chaotic organisation, that allowed for untrackable expenditures.”

But come to think of it, why will anybody in their proper senses conspire to bring such difficulties on national athletes whose sole aim is to bring glory to the nation?

Well, as they say, the devil is in the detail.

Curious to say that the Maputo Probe committee was inaugurated on Tuesday 4th October, 2011 by the Minister of Youth and Sports and was charged to complete its work in a month’s time which was subsequently extended.

But the final report of the committee was only officially acknowledged by the Ministry last week, five clear months after the committee had completed its work.

Does this suggest its business as usual? The earlier the findings of the committee are made public and action taken against officials whose conduct led to the misery of sportsmen/women and other officials, the better for us all.

In the face of the revelations at the Maputo Probe Committee, I join hands with my Kenyan colleague journalist Omulo Okoth in calling for the probe to be widened to include the National Unity Games and other previous Games in which the nation took part in.

The ball is in your court Hon. Minister of Youth and Sports Kofi Humador. Please don’t fail us because the eyes of the world are on you!

By Erasmus Kwaw

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