President Uhuru Kenyatta has been accused of dragging his heels on corruption, one of his election promises. Picture: REUTERS
President Uhuru Kenyatta has been accused of dragging his heels on corruption, one of his election promises. Picture: REUTERS

Nairobi — Kenyan authorities have arrested the head of the National Youth Service (NYS) as part of an investigation of a theft of almost $100m, media reports said on Monday.

Also on Monday, Kenya’s chief prosecutor said prosecution would begin immediately of all the suspects named in an investigation by the director of criminal investigation, although those names have not been made public yet.

Privately owned Citizen Television and K24 TV reported that the youth agency official, Richard Ndubai, had been arrested, along with an unspecified number of officials.

Kenyan media have said 10-billion shillings ($99m) had been stolen through fictitious invoices and multiple payments on one supplier invoice at the NYS.

Reuters could not contact Ndubai, who is in custody, for comment, and was unable to immediately contact his lawyer for comment.

Despite President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pledges to stamp out graft when he was first elected in 2013, critics say he has been slow to pursue top officials. Only big-name convictions will break what they call a culture of impunity, they say.

The reports have dismayed many Kenyans, particularly as they follow a 2015 scandal at the agency, which aims to equip Kenya’s young people with key skills and help create jobs.

Last week investigators summoned more than 40 people, including Ndubai, for questioning over the lost funds.

The office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) said it had grounds to start court proceedings against all of them.

"The DPP has independently reviewed all the Inquiries Files related to the ongoing Investigations at #NYS and has directed prosecution commences immediately against all the named suspects," the office said on its Twitter account.

Kenyatta has blamed the slow progress in tackling corruption on the lethargy of some government agencies charged with rooting out graft.

In 2016, the then-head of Kenya’s anti-graft agency said Kenya was losing a third of its state budget — the equivalent of about $6bn — to corruption every year.

While the finance ministry disputed the losses were that large, instead blaming poor paperwork, Kenyatta acknowledged then that corruption had reached levels that threatened national security.

Reuters

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