Ababu Namwamba on the spot for allowing star athlete Faith Kipyegon to travel economy class
Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba appeared before the Senate Plenary on October 11, 2023, to answer questions from Senators regarding his docket.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, once again, accused CS Namwamba of neglecting athletes who travel abroad to represent the country.
At the same time, he allegedly enjoyed luxury while accompanying the athletes to the same events.
Specifically, Senator Cherargei accused and faulted CS Namwamba of flying first class (business class) while athletes including world record holder Faith Kipyegon fly in economy class where there is little leg room and space for them to rest ahead of their athletics meets.
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Senator Cherargei presented the House with documents showing the cost of economy-class tickets athletes were provided with to travel to Budapest, Hungary, for the recent World Athletics Championships.
“This was in economy, and it is Sh 850,650. To the CS, is it wise to take people like Faith Kipyegon and Ebenyo Simiyu Daniel using economy class while you and the PS use business class? I thought they should be using business class, and you use the economy class because they are going to work and not going to relax.”
Adding, “Is it in order, CS, that our athletes should at least get legroom and relax so that when they land and go to the Olympic village, they should get good relaxation on the way? This was around Sh 76,856,450 through the economy class. I really want to understand the logic behind our athletes [travel plans] – who should at least get proper legroom,” said Senator Cherargei.
In essence, Senator Cherargei faulted the Ministry for not providing all athletes with expensive first-class plane tickets to travel abroad whenever they went to world events.
In response, CS Namwamba said this was due to a budgetary issue and the considerations the Ministry has to consider in sending athletes abroad.
“This is a budgetary issue that cuts across the whole of the sporting arena, and it is something definitely I can tell this honorable House. It is something that would not be beyond the Ministry to consider a review in the event that there is a sufficient budgetary provision to be able to provide our athletes with better traveling conditions.”
He noted, “What we do normally is that we try to ensure that the athletes travel in good time so that they arrive at their destination in good time and they have sufficient time to relax and to rest and to train before the competition. But if I hear this House say that we want our sportsmen and women to travel in more comfortable conditions, then that is something which definitely the Ministry would definitely listen to and consider within the normal budgetary limits.
He did not address the claims that he and his Principal Secretary flew first class while athletes flew economy class.
In August 2023, Senator Cherargei also claimed that athletes’ Sh 27,770,400 in allowances during their Budapest meet was missing as they were given fewer allowances, slashed from $300 to $60 a day.
He also claimed that Ministry officials and those from Athletics Kenya included joyriders and girlfriends in the logistics but did not provide evidence of this.
At one point, CS Namwamba’s resignation was called for in relation to how he handled athletes but the firebrand first time CS said he would not resign to please one man and that the Ministry had accomplished much since he took over.
He also told the House that the Sports docket was not a one-man show for him to be expected to be at all sports events when he was accused of not going to the airport to either send off or welcome athletes back home.