Tale of corruption claims first victim in Kenyan cabinet

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The Independent Online

Kenya's Finance Minister, David Mwiraria, has resigned amid allegations of corruption at the highest levels of government, and John Githongo, the former anti-corruption leader who brought about his downfall, says he will give evidence against him.

Mr Mwiraria is the first cabinet minister to step down after Mr Githongo went public with a document accusing senior officials of taking part in a scandal over the Anglo Leasing concern, where fictional companies were paid for security services that never materialised. In his resignation letter to President Mwai Kibaki, Mr Mwiraria said he had been wrongly linked to Anglo Leasing, and he was stepping down to allow investigators to look into the case and clear his name.

He wrote: "The allegations made against me in the media by the former permanent secretary for ethics and governance, Mr John Githongo, which have cast aspersions on my character and integrity, have deeply disturbed me. In order that my name be cleared and to protect the integrity of the President, the government and our country Kenya, I hereby voluntarily step aside."

Mr Githongo left Kenya and resigned from his post as permanent secretary for ethics and governance last February after becoming frustrated at Mr Kibaki's reluctance to deal with corruption. He moved to Britain, from where he compiled evidence against senior ministers, and presented it to the Kenyan government. Yesterday, he insisted Mr Mwiraria had a case to answer.

"I want to categorically state that evidence in my possession conclusively proves that Mr Mwiraria was an integral player in the Anglo Leasing and related scams," he said. "No impartial and independent inquiry can reach a contrary conclusion."

Mr Githongo also said he will give evidence to the Kenyan Public Accounts Committee and the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC), which is formally investigating the matter.

Critics of the Kenyan government say Vice-President Moody Awori, the Minister for Energy, Kiraitu Murungi, and two other cabinet ministers named in Mr Githongo's dossier, should also step down. Chris Murungaru, another close ally of Mr Kibaki named in the dossier, was sacked as Transport Minister in a cabinet shuffle last year.

Mwalimu Mati, the executive director of the anti-corruption group Transparency International Kenya, said the named men should step down under the ministerial code of conduct. "Yes, it's positive that he [Mr Mwiraria] is taking responsibility for his role as Minister of Finance in these deals, but we are not satisfied because we'd like all those implicated by the Githongo dossier to step aside," he said.

Mr Awori and Mr Murungaru are believed to have recently appeared before the KACC. Critics point out, however, that the body has so far been reluctant to take any action against senior ministers, even though it has known details of the Anglo Leasing scandal for years.

Over the weekend, the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, Joseph Kinyua, said 18 security contracts were under investigation, worth a total of $208m (£117m).