Ministers, several state bigwigs named in Kenya 'war against corruption' step aside; scores others targeted

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Kenya ranks 145 out of 177 nations on Berlin-based Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2014 that measures perceived graft.

FOUR Kenyan ministers, eight senior government officers and nine officials at state-owned companies complied with a directive from President Uhuru Kenyatta to take a leave of absence so a corruption probe can be completed.

Energy Secretary Davis Chirchir, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport Michael Kamau, Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Felix Koskei and Cabinet Secretary for Labour Kazungu Kambi agreed to step aside, Manoah Esipisu, a spokesman for the presidency, said in an e- mailed statement on Saturday. Acting secretaries to the 18- member cabinet have been appointed to take their place.

“This is just the beginning of an unwavering war against corruption,” Esipisu said. It is not the president’s “place to determine the guilt or otherwise” of officials named in the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Report, he said.

More than 50 public officials may leave office to allow investigations to take place, the Law Society of Kenya said in an e-mailed statement. Kenyatta issued the directive after complaints from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, or EACC, that it’s “under siege” because of cases currently being investigated.

Officials adversely mentioned in the report, whether a “cabinet secretary, principal secretary, or chief executive of a state institution,” should “immediately step aside pending conclusion of the investigations of the allegations against them,” Kenyatta said during his state of the nation address Thursday.

Denied wrongdoing
Chirchir, who already met with anti-graft officials over allegations he was involved in fraudulent activities when he served as a commissioner on the nation’s electoral body, denies any wrongdoing.

“I fully support the president in ensuring these investigations happen quickly and cases are settled once and for all,” Chirchir said by phone Friday. “Investigations should be conducted properly so that we separate reason from perception. I don’t like it when my family reads my name in the papers for months over these things.”

Kamau was out for a meeting when Bloomberg called for comment on Friday, according to a person who answered the telephone. A person who identified herself as Kambi’s personal assistant when Bloomberg called his office on Friday said the minister would return the call.

The EACC is also investigating county governors, principal secretaries and lawmakers for graft. The Council of Governors said Kenyatta’s directive for public officials to quit is a political statement and not linked to the fight against corruption, Nairobi-based Daily Nation reported on its Twitter Account.

The boards of state-owned companies have been ordered to urgently convene special meetings to appoint acting officers, the presidency said. The companies affected include the Agricultural Finance Corp., Geothermal Development Co., Nzoia Sugar Co., Kenya Airports Authority, Kenya Pipeline Co. and the National Social Security Fund, it said.

Kenya ranks 145 out of 177 nations on Berlin-based Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2014 that measures perceived corruption around the world.

“This administration has identified corruption as a major cause of wastage, it’s one of the biggest issues facing the country,” Esipisu said by phone from Nairobi. “Ending wastage through corruption is the president’s priority.”

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