LUSAKA — The Ministry of Sports awarded hefty allowances to 17 officials who arrived in Lusaka three days before the end of the Supreme Council of Sports in Africa (SCSA) Zone VI Games last month.
The officials were awarded M26 000 each as per diems.
The total cost was a whopping M442 000.
The decision to give the sports organisers the lavish allowances has now triggered an uproar within sports associations who accuse the ministry of profligacy.
While senior officials pocketed M26 000, participants at the games only got M5 400 in per diems for the 16 days they spent on national duty.
Officials in sporting associations told the Lesotho Times the team was put under unnecessary pressure adding the money could have been better spent buying air tickets for Team Lesotho.
The Lesotho delegation, which picked a record 15 medals at the games, was subjected to a grueling road trip to Lusaka. The team spent three days and two nights on the road.
“The sports organisers are each pocketing M26 000 despite arriving here just days before the end of the games. This is a clear indication they have come here for fun not to work,” one official said during the games last month.
“They can’t claim to have come here to work because if that was the case they would have been here ahead of the start of the games. I even wonder what kind of a report they are going to present given that they only managed to watch about three activities,” he said.
Another official said the M442 000 spent on the 17 sports organisers should have been used to buy plane tickets for the athletes.
“Look, these kids have been exposed to harsh travelling conditions while the so-called sports organisers are each enjoying M26 000 as per diem,” he said.
According to one travelling agency in Maseru, a return ticket to Lusaka cost a maximum of M9 050.
“The total of their per diems, plus the money spent on petrol, paying these six drivers as well as feeding the athletes and officials for three days should have been used to buy plane tickets for these children.”
Sports ministry chief information officer, Maqalika Matsepe, told the Lesotho Times on Wednesday the M26 000 allowances had nothing to do with SCSA Zone VI budget.
He said the sports ministry had budgeted for these allowances and did not affect Team Lesotho’s budget in any way.
The organisers’ allowances were budgeted separately from the athletes’, he said.
Matsepe said the M26 000 paid to each organiser was part of their annual budget as employees of the sports ministry.
“It was within their rights to receive such per diems as they have been included in their budget for the whole year.”
He said sports organisers, as part of their mandate, submit their annual detailed work plan along with their budgets and their allowances have got nothing to do with the athletes’ travelling conditions.
“Each year the ministry draws up its budget and all departments, including Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission and its member associations, submit their departmental budgets and if approved, workers like sports organisers will enjoy benefits like this one,” Matsepe said.
“These sports associations must not confuse the ministry’s workers’ allowances with a special budget for SCSA Games,” he said.
He said the sports associations’ demands that sports organisers be stripped off their work benefits just because the athletes were exposed to harsh travelling conditions were uncalled for.
“Look, we also travelled by road and it was not a nice experience at all but surely these people can’t expect sports organisers to neglect their duties and sacrifice their allowances for better travelling conditions.”
He said the sports organisers had gone to Zambia purely to study how each athlete recruited in different districts had performed.
“These sports organisers are based in different districts and they spend time working hand-in-hand with schools and clubs to nurture athlete’s talent,” Matsepe said.
“Their work is simply a feeder programme to different sports associations and such sports associations must stop complaining and appreciate the good work sports organisers are doing,” he said.
He said, athletes like Keneuoe Foloko, who won two silver medals from SCSA Games and the golden girl ’Mamoroallo Tjoka are products of sports organisers in different districts.