Kenyan ministers face accusation of corruption

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The Independent Online

The country's main newspaper, the Sunday Nation, named the ministers yesterday along with other politicians who are mentioned in a confidential dossier written by John Githongo, a former anti-corruption official in the Kibaki government.

Mr Githongo handed his 36-page dossier to Mr Kibaki and the Kenyan Anti Corruption Commission in November, accusing the Vice-President, Moody Awori, the Finance Minister, David Mwiraria, and the Energy Minister, Kiraitu Murungi, of taking part in corrupt deals that set out to steal public funds. A former transport minister, Chris Murungaru, who was sacked last year after the British government refused him entry on allegations of corruption, is also mentioned beside top staff in the President's office.

Mr Murungaru's lawyer, Paul Muite, said that he had not yet seen any concrete evidence against his client, and claimed the charges of corruption were politically motivated. "The British government has decided there must be a regime change in this country," he said. "Poor John Githongo is just a pawn in their game."

Mr Githongo, a former head of the Kenyan branch of anti corruption organisation Transparency International, resigned in frustration last February after his attempts to investigate corruption in Kenya's public sector were repeatedly blocked by officials. He fled to Britain and based himself at St Antony's College, Oxford, from where he compiled his November dossier.

The Kenyan anti-corruption commission has summoned over 30 officials, including the cabinet ministers, to help with investigations into the matter, but only four civil servants have been suspended so far.

Dissatisfied about the lack of action on the information he had given to his government, Mr Githongo made his findings public at the weekend, handing the document to journalists.

"I'd like to think that serious action will be taken against these ongoing scandals," he said. "I'm under no illusion that my coming forward is going to change anything overnight, but Kenyans, in their own quite way, will say, 'This simply confirms what we knew, what we've been hearing, and we're going to make these fellows pay."

The scandal, reported in the Kenyan media in 2004, centres on deals with Anglo Leasing, where vast sums of state money were allegedly paid to a company, supposedly based in Liverpool, for goods that were never delivered.

In an editorial published beside the story naming the ministers, the Sunday Nation said: "The sheer illegalities, irregularities and the huge sums which are lined up to be embezzled ... point to the fact that these are not acts of small-time government crooks, but rather system-wide attempts by people right at the heart of power to perpetrate looting of the Treasury."

Mr Githongo's revelations are the latest blow for Mr Kibaki's government, which almost collapsed after Kenyans rejected its proposals for a new constitution in a referendum in November. After losing the referendum, Mr Kibaki suspended parliament and sacked his entire cabinet, many of members of which had campaigned against the official government line. Mr Kibaki later reappointed Mr Awori, Mr Mwiraria and Mr Murungi despite knowing the allegations against them.

The Liverpool link to a £2bn scandal

* The Anglo Leasing scandal is the biggest corruption case to hit Kenya since the Goldenberg affair of the 1990s, when over £2bn of treasury funds were smuggled out of the country through fictional gold and diamond export deals.

* It involves the Kenyan government handing out vast sums of money to the Anglo Leasing contractor through a Liverpool based company, Saagar Associates, owned by the daughter of a Kenyan Asian businessman. The money was meant to pay for fictional government supplies that never materialised.

* The Anglo Leasing scandal broke in the spring of 2004 when it emerged that the government had overpaid for a £20m contract for forgery proof passports. The same company had also won a tender to finance a £29m contract for forensic science labs. As investigations continued, Anglo Leasing returned some of the money it had received, but the matter has not been fully resolved.

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