Kenya's anti-corruption watchdog quits

KENYA'S LEADING anti-corruption official resigned yesterday in the latest blow to President Mwai Kibaki's administration, only days after the British High Commissioner accused the government of looting public coffers.

John Githongo said he "was no longer able to continue serving the government of Kenya" but gave no further reason for his departure as governance and ethics permanent secretary.

He was recruited in January 2003 from the anti-corruption non-governmental organisation Transparency International, to help President Kibaki's new administration tackle the fraud that became endemic under the 24-year rule of the former president, Daniel arap Moi. Privately, Mr Githongo told critics that his success in the clean-up should only be judged after two years in office.

Two years later, the country still remains close to the bottom of international corruption clean-up league tables. His exit is the latest blow to the government of Mwai Kibaki, which was elected in December 2002 on an anti- corruption ticket.

Donors have repeatedly warned that the country risks losing vital aid cash if it cannot clean up its accounts. Last night, Sir Edward Clay, British High Commissioner to Kenya and a persistent critic of the government's record, said Mr Githongo's resignation left a "large hole" in its anti- corruption efforts.

"Personally I respect John Githongo as a person of integrity, courage and principle," he said. "He was intensely committed to the patriotic task of clearing corruption out of government." Last week, Sir Edward reignited the debate over sleaze, launching an outspoken attack on progress so far.

He accused government officials of colluding with members of the previous Moi regime in milking cash from procurement deals. "We are not talking about minor corruption. We are talking about massive looting and/or grand corruption which has a huge impact on Kenya's economy," he said.

Sir Edward, who caused a similar furore with stronger language last July, said he had handed a dossier of 20 corruption cases to the government.

Other ambassadors echoed Sir Edward's criticisms. The US ambassador, William Bellamy, said corruption was costing the country millions in cash that should be used to fight Aids.

Many donors remain nervous that, without stronger guarantees, they cannot be sure where their money is going. They estimate sleaze has cost the country $1bn (pounds 550m) in the past three years - about a fifth of this year's budget.

The appointment of Mr Githongo was one of President Kibaki's first moves as he attempted to put his manifesto into action. His election ended the 24-year reign of Daniel arap Moi and brought the prospect of winning back lost foreign aid.

Mr Githongo, a former journalist, had previously led the Nairobi office of Transparency International. There were some signs of progress, with Kenya winning plaudits from Transparency International in its annual report last year.

The International Monetary Fund also resumed lending to the country after a four-year suspension. However, the Transparency International report still ranked Kenya 129 out of 144 countries last year and corruption officials are unable to point to a single high-profile conviction. Gladwell Otieno, who replaced Mr Githongo as the country's director of Transparency International, said that his departure was a blow for Kenya.

"If he has quit it is because there is nothing that can be done about corruption. Obviously, it has become apparent to him that there is no political commitment in the fight against corruption that would make a difference," she said.

Dr Alfred Mutua, a government spokesman, paid tribute to the work of Mr Githongo but added that Sir Edward's criticisms were nothing new.

"Almost all these contracts involved British companies working with unscrupulous Kenyans to rob Kenya blind," he said.

"When we have told development partners of where we are, and how we are conducting an internal audit, they are satisfied. Clay just comes up with the same old cases that we already know and pretends it is a new issue."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...