Kenya: 40 officials, 14 others charged over alleged $80m graft

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta pledges crackdown on any individuals 'caught up in the web of corruption'.

    Kenya ranked 143rd out of 180 countries in a recent corruption index [Baz Ratner/Reuters]
    Kenya ranked 143rd out of 180 countries in a recent corruption index [Baz Ratner/Reuters]

    Authorities in Kenya have charged 54 people, including dozens of civil servants, as part of a corruption probe into the theft of tens of millions of dollars of public funds.

    Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Mohamed Harji told a news conference on Monday that 40 public officials and 14 private sector individuals would be investigated for their involvement in a suspected theft of 8bn Kenyan shillings ($78m) from the country's National Youth Service (NYS).

    Ten "business entities" have also been charged.

    The NYS is a paramilitary organisation populated by volunteers who receive government stipends while undergoing technical training and assisting with government projects.

    Police have arrested 20 of those charged - including NYS Director General Richard Ndubai and Public Service and Youth Development Principal Secretary Lilian Omollo - with the others requested to hand themselves into authorities by Harji.

    The charges include abuse of office, stealing public funds and forgery.

    The funds were allegedly looted through the creation of fictitious bills and multiple payments being made on a single invoice. 

    "Investigations reveal that there was no procurement whatsoever," Harji told reporters, according to Reuters news agency.  

    A second phase of the probe will look into any companies and banks which were complicit in the transactions, he added, with four special prosecutors set to be appointed to assist with the investigation.

    Kenyatta pledges corruption crackdown

    Speaking later on Monday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged to crack down on any individuals "caught up in the web of corruption".

    "We are not going to tolerate unethical people. People with responsibility must be ready to serve and not to be served," Kenyatta said.

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    Kenyatta pledged to stamp out corruption when first elected to the presidency in 2013, but has been unable to oversee any major anti-graft convictions so far.

    Anti-corruption organisation Transparency International ranked Kenya 143rd out of 180 countries in its 2017 corruption perceptions index, down seven places from 2013.

    A report in March by Auditor General Edward Ouko revealed almost $400m of public funds cannot be accounted for by the government. 

    Monday's events mark the second corruption scandal to hit the NYS in recent years.

    Earlier this year, a court acquitted almost two dozen of the agency's officials over an alleged theft of almost $475,000 in 2015.

    The organisation, promoted under Kenyatta as a means to increase youth employment, has recruited 67,092 volunteers since 2014.

    How do you win the fight against corruption?

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    How do you win the fight against corruption?

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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