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US blocks funding to Kenya over graft

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 26  – The American government has suspended a Sh500 million funding to the Ministry of Education owing to the recent loss of money under the Free Primary Education (FPE) program.

American Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger announced on Tuesday that his government had put on hold the five-year capacity building project that was scheduled to start this year “until there is a credible, independent audit and full accountability.”

“Those culpable for the fraud should not merely be sacked; they should be prosecuted and put behind bars,” Mr Ranneberger said in his speech at a luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce.

The envoy said that his government would continue to push for the elimination of corruption in Kenya.

The move by the US comes months after Britain suspended similar support after an audit revealed that hundreds of millions of shillings had been misappropriated under the program.  Some 26 officials at the Education Ministry are on suspension over the scam but no one has been prosecuted.

The Kenya Anti Corruption Commission is however investigating the scandal.

Mr Ranneberger said his government would continue to push for reforms in Kenya and added that he would be making more announcements in the coming weeks on persons who had been banned from visiting the US.

Last week, President Barack Obama telephoned both President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga urging them to unite in delivering a new Constitution.  He promised support for the reform process which Mr Ranneberger said would amount to Sh190 million.

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“We are providing Sh76 million to support to the Committee of Experts for international legal expertise, research, drafting, and mediation as required.  In an effort to increase the voice of citizens, the United States is providing Sh114 million to civil society to support civic education,” he said.

The US is also providing support for the Police reforms to the tune of Sh1 billion. Other projects to benefit from US technical and financial support are the implementation of the new land policy (Sh114 million) and reconciliation efforts (228 million).

“We know Kenya is in a critical time and we are going to be unwavering to support the reform agenda and remain very involved,” Mr Ranneberger said and added that during the next 12 months his government would spend more than Sh152 in programs aimed at strengthening political parties.

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