IOL's Athletics reporter Ockert de Villiers. Photo: Masi Losi

There has always seemed to be a disconnect between administrators and the athletes they are supposed to serve in South African sport.

It has never been demonstrated so poignantly as when Gideon Napoleon Sam had his turn to give evidence and set the record straight at the ministerial inquiry into the affairs of Sascoc, which he heads.

But instead of earning any sort of sympathy from the panel, Sam went on the defensive and protesting perhaps too much.

None of the board members or office bearers who appeared in front of the committee of inquiry covered themselves in glory.

From the month-long submissions, it was clear that the fish rots from the head down as neither disgraced former Sascoc chief executive Tubby Reddy nor Sam provided evidence that Sascoc cared very much about its core business.

Labour law expert Shamima Gaibie pointed out that only a fraction of the times the Sascoc board sat it spent time addressing the issues within sport.

“If I had to assign a percentage of all these documents that you have given to us to core issues, I would say it is less than 10 percent,” Gaibie said.

The Sascoc leadership seemed ignorant about the fact that they were the custodians of South African sport and that the funding came largely from the public purse.

When Sam was grilled about the exorbitant allowances board members received for trips to multi-sport events, he responded with indifference.

As if he could not understand what the big deals were when he could claim an R6000 daily allowance when he was on duty for Sascoc.

It is apparently fine that the entire Sascoc board can fly around the world business class at the expense of a cash-strapped sporting fraternity that includes a large part of the so-called Cinderella sports.

“The records reflect, this is the information Mr Reddy provided that on average the per diems for travel by board members is in excess of R2.2 million per year,” Gaibie said.

“In retrospect given these are public monies, are you not of the view that the per diems given to board members and the $500 given to you per day and the $300 to your deputy and vice I think, the $200 to the board is in excess?”

Sam only shrugged and said that council had approved the amounts and therefore it was justifiable.

“And you think $500 a day is very little?” Gaibie asked again.

“I would say reasonable, to too little I say what is the going rate in the country rand-dollar the person in the finance committee must work out which country they are going to, what is the exchange rate and give the board members a fair fee,” Sam said.

Throughout the process, there was a lot of finger-pointing between the different camps but at no point was anyone willing to do any kind of introspection.

The country’s athletes would have every reason to feel betrayed by the administrators as they fight each other for a place at the feeding trough instead of making sport accessible to everyone.

One can only hope that the committee’s findings would provide South African sport with the broom to clean up the mess that was allowed to spill out into the open.

Saturday Star

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