UK freezes funding to Kenya

December 11, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 11 – The government is in the spotlight over corruption yet again after the UK’s Department for International Development froze funding to the Ministry of Education over failure to account for Sh100 million.

The Head of DFID Alistair Fernie said on Friday that the withdrawal would affect Kenyan children and asked the government to conduct audits to establish how the money disappeared.

He blamed the ministries of Education and Finance over the missing cash and added that funding would only continue after the money was accounted for.

“We have stopped disbursing our funding because of this fraud which suggests that at least Sh100 million has gone astray. If the ministries come up with a satisfactory response and take action against those responsible then we will continue disbursing funding for the remainder of the five year period that we committed to. If we feel that their response is not satisfactory we will not disburse our funding,” he said.

Mr Fernie also added that the donor group would be firm with the two ministries and that they would enforce conditions charged to them before getting further funding.

“We are explaining to them what they need to do (i.e) respond adequately. This includes taking action against the individuals involved, trying to recover the funds and improving their systems. We think that the government has an incentive to try and recover the funds but they may not be recoverable from the individuals who may have taken it. We therefore expect the Finance Ministry to provide the necessary resources to ensure that there is money to cover for the services that our funding intended to cover,” he stated.

On his part, British High Commissioner Rob Macaire said the United Kingdom had issued more that 20 visa bans (and continued issuing more) to various senior personalities in the government for allegedly facilitating corruption.

“These are people who should they wish to travel to the UK we will have to forbid their travel. This is a last resort policy because no senior people have been successfully prosecuted in Kenya. We feel that to dent that impunity and tackle it we need to do something unilaterally to show that people are held to account for their actions,” he said defending the travel bans.

“This is not about being moralistic or over dramatic. It is a hard sober analysis of governance issues as they affect Kenya,” he stated.

He said that the UK was also considering the freezing of accounts of individuals who were suspected of having acquired their money corruptly.

“The UK has succeeded in freezing corruptly obtained assets and ideally returns them to the country concerned. There are specialist units working on this to prevent the UK from being used to launder or store illegally gained wealth. We have had success in Nigeria. Why can’t we do the same with Kenya?” he posed but commended Kenya for passing the Anti Money Laundering Law in Parliament.

“If properly implemented this could make a significant impact and also allow greater cooperation with UK and other international partners,” he explained.

The British envoy explained that the list of shame would not be made public saying that it would remain between those involved and the British government.

“It is not a list that will be made public.  It is a matter between us and the individuals concerned. We are looking at individuals where the allegations against them on issues of corruption are very strong and corroborated not just rumours. Secondly, we are talking about serious grand corruption charges against senior government officials and those are the criteria we use on deciding on our visa bans,” he said.

He added that the British government would continue pushing the Kenyan government to put an end to the vice adding that it would not give up.

“We are optimistic that over time we will be able to end this vice and that is why we are in very close discussion with the Kenyan government on how we can take our cooperation further. There is no intention of us giving up on the overall goal of either seeking criminal investigations or asset freezing and asset return. We have done this in other jurisdictions and it worked so we are not giving up on Kenya,” he said.

The Chairperson of the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission Okongo Omogeni however blamed Kenyan citizens for fueling corruption in the country.

“Unfortunately Kenyans continue giving money to get quicker services. In 2007, Kenyans were averagely giving Sh2,600 to public officers in return for quicker services. In 2008, according to our perception index that average increased to about Sh3,600 so Kenyans continue participating in corruption,” he explained.

Mr Fernie also added that Kenyans needed to start following the rule of law stating that it was the only way corruption would be combated.

“A very wise Kenyan whom I was talking to made a distinction between the hardware and software of the country. The constitution, the laws and the institutions are the hardware. The software is the value system that underpins them. As we all know, there is no point having fancy hardware if the software is faulty. What this boils down to, at its very root, is whether Kenya is a country that follows the rule of law,” he said.


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