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Kenyan Government Officials Suspended For Alleged Graft

Two Kenyan cabinet ministers and several government officials have been suspended pending further investigations into their roles in recent corruption scandals.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga announced the suspension of William Ruto, Minister for Agriculture and Samuel Ongeri Minister for Education at a press conference on Sunday, and said necessary consultations had been made within government on the matter.

Earlier in a statement issued from State house, Nairobi, President Mwai Kibaki directed the suspension of eight senior government officials including five permanent secretaries and heads of state corporations mentioned in a corruption scandal involving subsidized maize.

The permanent secretaries suspended are Dr. Romano Kiome (Agriculture), Mr. Ali Mohammed (Special Programmes) Prof Karega Mutahi (Education) and Dr Mohammed Isahakia (Prime Minister's office.) Prime Minister's chief of staff Mr. Caroli Omondi and three senior managers at National Cereals and Produce Board were also suspended.

The prime minister suspended them [ministers] to create space for investigations into two scandals, said Dennis Onyango, director for communications in the prime minister’s office. Onyango cited the scandal surrounding the acquisition and distribution of maize which took place last year and the disappearance of millions of shillings in the Free Primary Education funds.

The investigations, Onyango said, will be conducted jointly by the criminal investigation department, Kenya anti-corruption commission, and the inspectorate of state corporations.

Onyango dispelled fears that the crackdown may be politicized. “We can’t stop people who want to politicize it but there is a legitimate case here.” He added that Kenyans whose children go to public schools feel they are losing because somebody is stealing their funds.

“In the case of maize, there is concern that maize that was meant for the poor was diverted and used to enrich some officials. So there is need for a thorough investigation.”

Onyango denied there was international pressure exerted on the government to act. “On the issue of maize there is no international pressure at all. The free primary education fund has had some push from the international community because of the input of donors.”

A report released to the public last week regarding the maize scandal put the cost of the deals at Sh2 billion, of which 500,000 bags worth Sh850,000 could not be accounted for, and most of it was lost in the irregular sale of the subsidized maize in 2008.

The education ministry scandal on the other hand, involves the loss of Sh 103 million, Free Primary Education money through fictitious workshops attended by ghost participants.