Sports PS should sort out governance, equality issues

RECENT changes made by President Edgar Lungu are meant to enhance government’s service delivery to the people of Zambia and one area that was affected was the Ministry of Sport which saw Agnes Musunga paving way for a new Permanent Secretary Joe Kapembwa who should get down to work. The new permanent secretary has quite some challenging issues to handle as the ministry’s controlling officer and public service advisor to Minister of Sport Moses Mawere.
To start with is the matter concerning the National Sports Council of Zambia (NSCZ), which has been running without a management board for close to a year now following the dissolution of the elected team that was expecting to be inaugurated in April last year.
It was somewhat a shocker after the ministry had sanctioned the elections and gave the nation word that a full board was to be inaugurated after Cabinet approval.
However, Mawere, announced that there would be no board until the NSCZ Act was reviewed.
But how long will this process take?
Presently, there is an acting general secretary Raphael Mulenga seconded from the ministry, managing the day to day affairs of the council but it leaves governance issues open to question because there is no board in place to provide checks and balances.
Kapembwa, coming in with experience from the Ministry of Works and Supply, should therefore work hand in hand with the technocrats and consult with relevant stakeholders, especially heads of national sports bodies on how best the ‘impasse’ may be resolved because as it is the act has been set aside with no backing statutory instrument.
The NSCZ is Government’s sports policy implementation organ through the ministry and the absence of the board impacts negatively of the execution of related matters.
The board plays an oversight role on several issues affecting the development of sports in the country.
It is not safe to have an officer from the ministry as acting chief executive officer.
As things now, with Mulenga, a sports officer serving as acting general secretary at the NSCZ, it is like the ministry reporting to itself.
This is a serious conflict of interest which the sports officers and other stakeholders should have brought to the attention of Mawere.
How can the ministry report to itself?
Instead completely doing away with the board completely, Mawere should have appointed an interim board of distinguished administrators which should work with his office in coming up with a new Act.
As things stand, Mawere may succeed to convince Cabinet that there may be no need for an NSCZ board.
This is a serious governance matter which Kapembwa should seriously look into before the country becomes a laughing stock.
Other than the NSCZ issue, there is also need to address the imbalance in funding to various sports codes which clearly lag in comparison to the country’s number one sport – football.
Government may not have adequate funds to allocate to sport, but the permanent secretary can play a role of facilitator to get corporate bodies to support the so called minor sports.
Sports associations and federations should be called to a round table where their needs for the year ought to be received and the ministry uses their inputs to engage the corporate world for possible support.
Such an approach would take away the headache of having to get funding from the national treasury which already has competing priorities.
Kapembwa should go in with the desire to level the playing field for all sports associations unlike the scenario where some sports associations such as darts felt down trodden.
It was quite sad that while netball seemingly enjoyed preferential treatment as it managed to fulfil most international assignments, some sports bodies like darts were pariahs.
A grant to the NSCZ would be diverted to facilitate netballers’ trips to some international friendly abroad while darts would receive nothing as they sought to represent the country at Zone Six Championships within the region.
There is need for the permanent secretary to help remove stigma on some sports associations such as darts and be treated fairly.
As chief advisor to the minister, Kapembwa should not just be listening to sports officers at the ministry but visiting various sports associations to listen to their challenges as part of his orientation.
For now, I wish Musunga well at her new station at the Ministry of Works and Supply.
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