$47m of donor money stolen in Kenya


THE BRITISH government says it will ask for a return of the money it gave to Kenya’s department of education under a free education scheme, after an investigation showed that millions of dollars in donor money went missing between 2005 and 2009.

“The UK government will push the government of Kenya hard for return of the UK’s share of lost funds,” the department for international development said in a statement yesterday.

“No UK funds will go through government of Kenya financial systems until there is convincing evidence of substantial improvements in integrity and financial management systems.”

On Monday, the Kenyan government said corrupt officials in the country’s education and health ministries had stolen up to $47 million between 2005 and 2009.

Money provided by international donors to buy student textbooks was channelled to non-existent schools while funding for the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency to buy drugs went missing.

The country’s finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta said the names of officials investigated had been given to the police, but analysts said the chances of prosecutions were low.

“Handing over reports to the criminal investigations department of the Kenyan police force is a good way of shelving investigations,” said Mwalimu Mati, chief executive officer at the corruption watchdog Mars Group Kenya. “It is hard to see how such a discredited police force can bring about justice when they are still investing in Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg.”

The Goldenberg scandal, which cost the country over 10 per cent of GDP, dates back to the early 1990s. It saw the government of Kenya pay out hundreds of millions of dollars of public money in a bogus gold export scheme. No government officials have been prosecuted for their part in it.

Despite coming to power in December 2002 on a strong anti-graft platform, President Mwai Kibaki has failed to stamp out corruption in east Africa’s largest economy. Kenya has slipped down the rankings of Transparency International’s 2010 corruption perceptions index, falling to 154 out of 178 countries.

Last year the government said it could be losing $4 billion, nearly one-third of the national budget, to kickbacks and other forms of corruption.

“Kenya is good at talking about corruption cases,” Teresa Omondi, the deputy executive director of Transparency International – Kenya, said, “but not at prosecuting anyone in them. The fact that no stringent action is ever taken means there is a risk of us hearing about all this again next year.”