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Report Blasts Kenyan Government for Luxury Vehicle Purchases


Opposition members of parliament in Kenya are pushing ahead with plans to reconvene parliament to deal with corruption scandals and other business. The latest scandal surrounds a report Monday by the Kenyan office of Transparency International and the government's National Commission on Human Rights blasting Kenyan officials for spending more than $10 million on luxury cars in the midst of dire poverty.

A senior official with the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, William Ruto, tells VOA that members of parliament plan to re-convene on February 14, with or without the president's consent.

"It is irresponsible for parliament to be out of session for close to five months," he said. "Parliament is an instrument of governance, it is put in place by the constitution, it is paid for by the people of Kenya, and it is supposed to transact business on behalf of the people."

Ruto says high on the agenda will be the establishment of an independent parliamentary committee to investigate corruption scandals.

One such scandal, according to a new report, is the purchase of luxury vehicles by senior government officials, which took place in 2003, the first year of the National Rainbow Coalition's term.

The coalition had won elections in late 2002 on an anti-corruption and anti-poverty platform.

Monday's report called the purchase immoral. It estimates that the more than $10 million price tag could have paid for anti-retroviral treatment for almost 150,000 HIV-positive people for one year, or put 25,000 children through eight years of school.

Transparency International - Kenya's executive director, Mwalimu Mati, explains why the car purchase was the subject of the two groups' first report.

"For a country where 56 percent of the population is living on less than $1 a day, to have such conspicuous consumption going on is now becoming unacceptable," said Mati. "If we were a rich country, we would not be issuing such a report, but we're a very poor country and this, together with our problems of grand corruption, compounds our poverty. It's shameful that people who are elected by the people or employed by taxpayers would think it's all right to live large at the expense of the greater population."

Mati says that the vehicles, which include Mercedes Benz luxury sedans, Toyota Land Cruisers and Range Rovers, are used almost exclusively for the politicians' personal use. The vehicles, in his words, have "absolutely no developmental value."

The report says such lavish buying undermines reform efforts and creates mistrust, resentment, cynicism, and loss of hope.

Monday's report comes in the midst of corruption allegations being made by John Githongo, who was permanent secretary in charge of governance and ethics for about two years. He resigned last year and now lives in London.

Among the cases is the so-called Anglo Leasing affair, which involved the government awarding lucrative contracts to fictitious companies to print high-tech passports and build police forensic laboratories.

The scheme, which was prevented, could have cost the Kenyan economy around $200 million.

Opposition politicians recently urged President Mwai Kibaki to convene parliament to deal with the Anglo Leasing scandal and other business.

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The report issued Monday says President Mwai Kibaki's government spent $12 million on scores of luxury vehicles in 2003 and 2004.

Two Kenyan watchdog groups, Transparency International and the Kenya National Government of Human Rights, who wrote the report say such wasteful spending causes "resentment in society."

The groups say the money could have helped alleviate other problems in a country where half of its 32 million people are mired in poverty, and four million Kenyans are on the verge of starvation after years of drought.

Mr. Kibaki came to power in 2003 pledging to rid Kenya of corruption and waste, but allegations surfaced last week that several ministers and government officials were involved in a scam to defraud the state of millions of dollars.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.
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