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Kenya to prosecute 54 top officials in graft probe

Journalists wait outside the Directorate of Criminal Investigation headquarters, following the arrest of the head of the National Youth Service Richard Ndubai in Nairobi, Kenya, on May 28, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

Kenya’s top prosecutor has ordered the immediate prosecution of more than 50 officials, including senior executives and their families, who have been arrested as part of an investigation into a corruption scandal.

Kenya’s Chief Prosecutor Noordin Haji said in a statement on Monday that he had enough evidence to press charges against 54 officials, arrested over the theft of more than 80 million dollars from the National Youth Service (NYS).

“My office is preparing to have the suspects arraigned in court to answer to the charges,” he said.

The NYS, whose director, Richard Ndubai, is also among the detainees, is an initiative by the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta to train youths in life and business skills and is part of Kenyatta’s plan to combat the high youth unemployment rate in Kenya.

With a budget soaring to some 250 million dollars a year, it provides trainees a stipend while they are on technical training and are working on government projects.

Over 80 million dollars, however, was stolen through fictitious invoices and multiple payments on one supplier invoice, said the prosecutors’ office.

In one instance, the NYS paid a million dollars for a single car tire.

Ndubai (pictured below), who resigned earlier this month and was arrested on Sunday, will appear in a court hearing on Tuesday along with Public Service and Youth Secretary Lillian Omollofor. They will be charged with abuse of office, stealing public funds, and forgery.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed to deal with those “caught in the web of corruption.” In 2013, when he was elected for the first time, he pledged to stamp out corruption.

Several other corruption scandals have also been revealed in recent days. In one case, multi-million dollar contracts were reportedly awarded to the friends and family members of employees at the electricity supplier Kenya Power.

In another case, fraudulent payments of 30 million dollars were uncovered at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

Back in 2016, the then head of Kenya’s anti-graft agency said the county was losing a third of its state budget to corruption every year. The Finance Ministry disputed the claim, but Kenyatta acknowledged that corruption had reached levels that threatened national security.

Kenya, the sixth poorest country in Africa, fell to the 143rd rank among 180 countries in Transparency International’s annual corruption index for last year.

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