13, August 2018
Kenyan authorities have detained the country’s chairmen of railway and the agency that manages public land, accusing them of alleged corruption over land allocation for the new $3-billion flagship Nairobi-Mombasa railway.
The two top officials were arrested on Saturday, the latest to be caught up in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s anti-corruption drive in the African country in recent months.
The new railway, which is linking the capital Nairobi to East Africa’s main port city, was funded by China and is now considered as one of the largest infrastructure projects of Kenyatta.
Mohammed Abdalla Swazuri, the head of National Land Commission, and managing director of the Kenya Railways Corporation, Atanas Kariuki Maina, were among 18 other officials, businesspeople and firms named in a statement listing arrests that was released by the prosecutor’s office on Saturday.
However, no Chinese companies were named in the prosecutor’s statement.
Opposition leaders and Kenyan economists have already lambasted the railway’s huge funding for increasing the country’s debt burden, which the IMF estimated at between 54 and 55 percent of economic output (GDP) in the 2017-18 fiscal year.
According to the country’s anti-corruption agency, the officials siphoned taxpayer money through phony compensation claims for land used for the railway. But the agency did not clarify who made the allegations.
President 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.
Back in May, several other corruption scandals were revealed. 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.