April 1, 2015 / 8:34 AM / 3 years ago

Kenya corruption watchdog makes allegations against 175 officials

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s anti-graft watchdog published a report detailing corruption allegations against 175 government officials on Tuesday, with some cases involving multi-billion-dollar Chinese-backed infrastructure projects.

Five ministers have already left their positions temporarily after President Uhuru Kenyatta made a speech last Thursday in which he directed any public official cited in the report to step aside pending investigation, regardless of rank.

The report was not made public until Tuesday, although some parts had been leaked to the media.

Kenyatta made the fight against graft a priority on taking office in 2013, but critics say he has failed to be effective. Corruption is seen as a major obstacle to business and national security in Kenya.

The report by Kenya’s Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission outlines allegations against members of parliament, senators and governors in what local media has dubbed the “List of Shame”.

Presented to parliament for debate on Tuesday, the report cites cases ranging from bribery to abuse of office to interference with the award of tenders in government projects.

“In recent years, corruption and unethical behavior ... has gained root in Kenya,” the report said.

“This state of affairs has led to despair among the public, negative effect on the economy, skewed service delivery and eventually posed challenges to the ... governance of the country.”

In one case mentioned in the report, a tender for the construction of a 320 billion-shilling ($3.5 billion) standard gauge railway was awarded irregularly. It also alleges that officials tried to influence the award of a $500 million pipeline contract to Chinese company Sinopec Corp.

The Sinopec deal was “meant to corruptly yield $15 million” to be shared between Energy Minister Davis Chirchir and the Nairobi Senator Mike Mbuvi Sonko, according to the report.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she did not know any details of the report, but added: “I can tell you in a very responsible way that the Chinese government has always demanded that Chinese companies operating in relevant countries must respect the law and operate within the rules.”

Sinopec did not respond to a request for comment.

Neither Chirchir nor Sonko could be immediately reached.

Chirchir, as well as the ministers for labor, land, transportation and agriculture, have stepped down temporarily.

Agriculture minister Felix Koskei is accused of renting government land “under unclear circumstances” and plowing 100 acres to plant potatoes.

Koskei was also unreachable for comment.

The National Audit Office is accused of defrauding the World Bank out of hundreds of millions of shillings by doubling the cost of an unspecified project. The World Bank had no immediate comment. The audit office could not be reached for comment.

($1 = 92.3500 Kenyan shillings)

Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Adam Rose in BEIJING; Editing by James Macharia and Jeremy Laurence

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