Windhoek-Special Olympics Namibia (SON) has been stripped of its license by its mother-body, Special Olympics International (SOI), due to alleged misappropriation of funds, maladministration and lack of financial supporting documents, among other issues.
The latest development was yesterday confirmed by multiple well-placed sources at the besieged organisation that represents the welfare of local athletes with intellectual disabilities.
With SOI revoking the license, it technically means Special Olympics Namibia has now been downgraded to what is referred to as “founding member status”, meaning Namibian athletes will not participate in any Special Olympic Games or benefit from any educational, health or sport programme under the auspices of SOI – at least until SOI pronounces itself otherwise.
The whole squabble between SOI and SON started back in February when SOI dismissed the entire board of directors of SON due to alleged financial and administrative irregularities.
New Era Sport has it on good authority that the SON board members were dismissed because of N$200,000 that was invested with a certain institution without prior knowledge and permission of certain board members.
After the irregularity was unearthed at one of the board meetings, it was then collectively resolved by the board members that the N$200,000 be transferred back into the account of SON – a directive promptly followed, as the entire amount was retrieved.
Despite the retrieval of the N$200,000, SOI still stood by its decision to dismiss the board and also later launched further investigations into the financial affairs of SON.
But strangely, in another letter in the possession of New Era Sport, dated July 17, 2017, SOI through its lawyers wrote to SON to say that the board members have now been reinstated but should voluntarily resign to make way for the establishment of a new board so as to avoid further legal action from SOI.
Following the July 17 letter, most SON board members refused to follow the instructions, as they sought clarity as to why they should resign and on what grounds they were reinstated in the first place, as SOI earlier felt the board’s actions warranted their dismissal.
In response, SOI pointed to the N$200,000 that was improperly invested by the board, as it did not follow binding rules and regulations when making such decisions, and also listed other administrative issues that it felt affect the operations of SON.
But since the N$200,000 was just improperly invested without following due process and was however later retrieved and not “eaten”, the aggrieved SON board members were not fully satisfied with the claims being advanced by SOI and further demanded that the international body provides more facts that warrant their dismissal, or SOI’s request for them to voluntarily step down.
The tussle dragged for a few months and on Friday, SOI again through its lawyers informed SON of its decision to revoke its license and suspend all funding towards the Namibian body.
Also in the September 15 letter – which was copied to the line ministry and members of the Namibia Sport Commission (NSC) – SOI said their decision to revoke SON’s license was triggered by the refusal of the board members to voluntarily resign, as they were given 30 days to do so.
With the revocation of the license, going forward SOI will not allow Namibian athletes to participate in any of its events or developmental programmes and also cut funding to SON.
The international body has also informed SON to refrain from using the name Special Olympics, the SOI logo and all other copyrighted materials or other intellectual property owned by SOI – with immediate effect.
In conclusion, SOI further ordered SON to immediately transfer all funds, in-kind donations, property (including intellectual and other intangible assets) acquired by SON through its affiliation to SOI to the new board that the international body soon plans to install.
SON was also advised to cease all operations under the name SON, except necessary activities required for the winding down of business and the transfer of materials and information, as indicated.
It now remains to be seen if the estranged SON board members will still seek legal recourse to challenge SOI’s actions or voluntarily resign, as per the wishes of SOI. In the meantime, Namibia’s intellectually disabled athletes will have to resort to other means to keep themselves busy, as no health and educational programmes will be coming their way due to boardroom politics.