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Kenyan Finance Minister Resigns Following Corruption Allegations


Kenyan Finance Minister David Mwiraria has resigned his post to pave way for investigations into claims that he was involved in a procurement scam.

Mr. Mwiraria made his announcement at his offices in Nairobi and said president Mwai Kibaki had accepted his resignation.

"The allegations made against me in the media by the former permanent secretary for ethics and governance, Mr. John Githongo, which have cast serious aspersions on my character and integrity have deeply disturbed me," he said. "In order that my name be cleared and to protect the integrity of the president, the government and our country, I hereby voluntarily step aside as your minister for finance and a member of the cabinet to pave way for investigations."

Mwiraria was one of four cabinet ministers named in the so-called Anglo Leasing procurement scam, 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.

Details of the report on the Anglo-leasing scam compiled by former ethics and governance permanent secretary John Githongo, got prominent coverage in major western media last week. Githongo fled to London last year following threats to his life by people allegedly involved in corruption scandals he was investigating.

Mwiraria's resignation follows mounting pressure from opposition politicians, donor nations, and ordinary Kenyans for government officials accused in financial scandals to resign to pave way for independent investigations.

Earlier in the week, the World Bank held back a quarter of a million dollars worth of financial support for education and the fight against HIV/AIDS because of concerns about the Kenyan government's handling of funds.

Billow Kerrow is an opposition member of parliament who says Mwiraria's resignation was long overdue.

"In any other country this kind of scandal would make the government resign," he said. "So he is moved more by concerns about protection of the government, protection of the president. One important thing is that his action would lend credence to repeated statements by the president that he would fight corruption from the top and this has been hollow all along."

Mwiraria's resignation leaves two cabinet ministers alleged to have been involved in the Anglo-leasing scam in Mr. Kibaki's cabinet. They include Vice President Moody Awori and Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi. The former powerful internal security minister Christopher Murungaru, who is also named in connection with the scam, was dropped from the cabinet in December last year.

Mwiraria, like the others named in the scandal, maintains his innocence and called for expeditious investigations into the matter.