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opinion - Focus on Africa

Focus on Africa: Kenya finance minister charged in dam scandal

Kenya's finance Minister Henry Rotich in the dock at the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi, 23 July 2019
Kenya's finance Minister Henry Rotich in the dock at the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi, 23 July 2019 Stringer/Reuters

Kenan treasury secretary Henry Rotich is being called to account for the looting of €164 million budgeted for the construction of two dams.

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He has been charged  along with 27 others. Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecution, Noordin Haji, described the group as a “well-choreographed corruption syndicate which “inflated project costs with no regard for procurement laws and which paid billions of shillings for services not rendered”.

“What started in 2015 as a mega-project to change the lives of Elgeyo Marakwet County residents and parts of the North Rift turned out to be a cash cow," groans the Nairobi-based Standard newspaper. The initial cost of the project, of 397 million euros, was inflated to 544 million euros.

Not a shovel...

The publication quotes Haji as saying that he had sufficient evidence to charge Rotich and the 27 others, including three other treasury officials, for eight different offenses.

“Four years after, close to 300 million dollars had been sank, but not a spade lifted on the project site,” writes Jaindi Kisero, economic affairs correspondent with the Kenyan Daily Nation.

Kenya's treasury cabinet secretary Henry Rotich , "Yes-man always eager to please"
Kenya's treasury cabinet secretary Henry Rotich , "Yes-man always eager to please" file.jpg

 

Kisero also looks back at Rotich’s six years in charge of the treasury, criticising his decision to contract Eurobonds worth 275 billion shillings (246 million euros) for government budget support.

“It appears it was spent on salaries, which is not what our law says on borrowing money from international markets,” the economist explains.

The Standard also slams Rotich for “handing MPs billions of taxpayers’ money to illegally pay themselves hefty house allowances, at a time when all revenue indicators in the country were flashing red”.

On Tuesday Rotich was released on bail, along with treasury principal secretary Kamau Thugge. The two were among the 28 officials who spent a night in police custody following their arrest on Monday, according to the Standard.

Barack Muluka, a Nairobi-based political commentator and columnist for the publication, also hopes that this case will be the start of the much-spoken about war against graft in Kenya.

“During his last State of the Nation address, President Kenyatta did send out a very strong warning to members of his government that anyone involved in graft will have it hard, and be called upon to step aside," Muluka told RFI.

 

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