Corruption in Kenyan football exposed by Transparency International


By Omulo Okoth
Rarely do financial mismanagement in sports bodies in Africa attract the attention of international watchdogs. However, in their Global Corruption Report of 2001, Transparency International reported how KFF has misused millions of shillings in the name of developing Kenya's number one sport.

Unknown to TI is that the Government turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to these exposes in a manner that introduces a political angle to this shameless infamy. 

Widespread mismanagement of the game in the office of its organising body, the KFF, has long been apparent. 

Gross incompetence and likely bribery of referees is all too common, and the embezzlement of of KFF funds has also come to light, TI reported. KFF has not sent audited accounts to its member clubs and affiliates for decades. 

Even during Annual General Meetings, affiliates so frustrated by such blatant mismanagement hardly demand financial reports, which under normal circumstances ought to form an integral part of an AGM. 

All they want is to elect new officials as fast as possible. Promises that the financial reports will be produced within a certain time frame have never been honoured as new officials, too, rush in to "make hey when it is shining." 

Overloaded match schedules, arbitrary changes in the appointment of match officials, abuse of rules and manipulation in the promotion and relegation of teams regularly disappoint fans.

Eight Premier League Clubs came together in December 2000 to create the Inter-Club Consultative Group (ICCG) to petition the KFF over these trends. The ICCG protest subsequently unravelled a complex web of financial intrigue in spite of KFF resistance. 

A copy of the KFF audit for 2000 was leaked, revealing major irregularities in the Federation's book-keeping. 

Only Sh 2.1 million ($26,023) was recorded for gate collections during 2000, although the year witnessed over 300 league, cup and continental matches. Meanwhile, stadium expenses tripled from Sh 785,225 ($10,066) in 1999 to over Sh 2.3 million ($29,487) in 2000, although 150 fewer matches were played that year. 

Official allowances and youth expenses similarly rose massively, but inexplicably, during the same period. In response to these alarming findings, the ICCG sent a letter to the KFF secretary general in May 2001 asking the KFF to call a meeting of all clubs to discuss the audit issue and the general issues of accountability. 

The letter was returned unopened with an annotation stating: "Mail back. We do not know this group since they are not our members." Direct appeals to the Government, African Football Confederationn (CAF) and FIFA also fell on deaf ears. 

This lack of accountability and transparency left some ICCG clubs contemplating withdrawal from the KFF league. That would be a solemn day for Kenyan football, but it could also lead to the teams being banned by FIFA from foreign competition. 

The possibility of taking legal action against KFF might have a similar result if precedents are anything to go by, since FIFA actively discourages clubs from instituting legal proceedings. 

As the year neared its end, however, pressure mounted on KFF officials to explain certain financial issues. Top officials were put on the spot and this resulted in the suspension of the secretary general, the treasurer and the deputy secretary. 

Talk is rife that some top officials sacrificed the three and club officials maintain that the entire KFF executive committee is corrupt and should not just quit office, but be prosecuted. 

Indeed, the three suspenses officials have been recommended for prosecution. A deeper crisis faces the KFF on how the annual FIFA Youth Development Programme grant of $250,000 has been used. 

Observers are agreed that there is absolutely nothing on the ground to show for this grant. Insiders have confided that the money has ended in federation officials' pockets rather than develop youth soccer in Kenya. But as the Ministry for Sport was about to disband the KFF and charge its officials, word apparently came 'From Above' that no such a thing should happen. This was political power at play. A top KFF official is close buddy of political wheeler dealers in the corridors of power. 

KFF officials have formed a cartel for siphoning federation funds by forming amorphous companies which they hire to render dubious services to the federation and charge exhorbitant fees. 

The KFF and many football clubs, TI report says, run the risk of going bankrupt if efforts to improve transparency do not take place quickly. 

Aleading brewing industry sponsors the national soccer team with an annual grant of Sh 30 million ($384,615). The sponsorship is managed by a marketing company - Media Plus - away from the direct management by KFF officials. Pressure has, however, mounted on the brewer to terminate the contract with the marketing company ostensibly because it does not understand soccer management. 

The marketing company has apparently frustrated efforts by KFF officials to dip their long fingers in this lucrative sponsorship as it demands certain financial procedures. 

Knowing the Kenyan style of circumventing good order, it would be hardly surprising when the contract is prematurely terminated. 

The national coach, Reinhardt Fabisch (German) is paid a monthly salary of $6,000 and monthly house allowance of $1,300. There is also the $30 daily camping allowance to boot. 

But what is there to justify such hefty figures for? Kenya is not among the World Cup finalists. Neither were they in the African Cup of Nations finals in Mali in January. 

When confronted with these facts, Fabisch arrogantly retorted: "You need super star Jesus Christ to take the national team places." He did not elaborate. 

Such is the sorry state of affairs of Kenyan soccer that fans have been left in a state of confusion. Wither Kenyan soccer.

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