President Uhuru Kenyatta has tasked Joe Okudo to work with Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed in ensuring the government’s sports agenda is successfully implemented in the last 30 months of his tenure.
In a raft of changes made to the Cabinet on Tuesday, President Kenyatta appointed Okudo the new Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture.
He has been picked from the Ministry of Tourism to replace Kirimi Kaberia, with Kaberia moving to the Ministry of Mining.
“I look forward to a successful working relationship with him (Okudo) ahead of the 2020 Olympics,” said Kenya Volleyball Federation (KVF) chairman Waithaka Kioni.
A Bachelor of Arts degree holder from the University of Nairobi with a masters degree in Business Administration from Copenhagen Business School, Okudo has his hands full as he walks into his new work station.
First, and as the chief accounting officer, Okudo inherits a ministry that has failed to implement the government’s promise of building five state-of-the-art stadiums.
Neither has the Sports Ministry managed to renovate existing sports facilities despite the Treasury pumping in millions of shillings of tax payers’ money for the same purpose.
STADIUMS PROJECTS STALLED
Instead, the stadium project appears dead and buried.
In a series of articles published last year, Nation Sport highlighted how a number of stadiums, including Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi, Kipchoge Keino in Eldoret and Marsabit Stadium remained in appalling condition despite money having been set aside to renovate them.
Delays in construction work have proven costly, with Kenyan Premier League teams being forced to travel out of Nairobi to play matches. Kenya also lost out on an opportunity to host the 2018 Africa Nations Championship (Chan) football tournament.
Okudo takes over in a busy sporting year. Kenya is preparing to send a strong contingent of about 300 athletes and officials to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo from July 24 to August 9.
Nairobi will also host the 2020 World Junior Athletics Championship July 7 to 12, the Kenya Open Golf Championship March 12 to 15, and the Safari Rally which will this year be part of the World Rally Championship, from July 16 to 19.
In between these activities, the Kenya Sevens rugby team will be competing in the IRB Sevens Series, while Harambee Stars have crucial assignments as Kenya seeks to qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, and 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Okudo has to mend working relations between the government and a number of local sports federations, including the Football Kenya Federation (FKF), Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) and Athletics Kenya.
The federation bosses spent the better part of last year complaining about lack of funding and delay in disbursement of money by the government despite an assurance from President Kenyatta that all was well. The financial challenges led to go-slows and strikes among athletes and a media war between Kaberia and a number of senior federation officials.
“We welcome the new PS. We have already shared our programmes and budgets with the Ministry ahead of this year. The government has always been helpful and I am certain we will enjoy a better working relationship,” added Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa.
Okudo will hope for a better working relationship with his immediate boss Amina Mohammed, something that wasn’t particularly the case with his predecessor.
This appointment serves as a comeback for Okudo who’s previously served as the PS for Arts and Culture during President Kenyatta’s first term in office. He’s also served as a Business Partnership Programme Manager at Danisa and Team Leader of the Business Sector Support Programme. He was also the co-chair of the Private Sector Donor Coordinating Group in Kenya.