Kenyan President vowed Wednesday that some $80 million (70 million euros) stolen from the national youth agency in the country’s latest corruption scandal would be recovered.
“We shall recover all the stolen money. There will be no mercy for the thieves. Their days are numbered. They will be prosecuted and jailed,” he said in a statement.
On Tuesday 24 of 54 suspects were hit with a raft of fraud charges, including the director of the National Youth Service (NYS), Richard Ndubai, and the principal secretary in the youth ministry, Lilian Omollo.
All pleaded not guilty at a court in Nairobi.
The scandal involves the alleged fraudulent payment of millions of dollars for goods and services, often non-existent.
The scale of the theft has angered many even in corruption-weary Kenya, where massive amounts of money regularly disappear with total impunity, and most citizens merely shrug it off.
The NYS is a paramilitary training institution that has been at the forefront of Kenyatta’s plan to combat high youth unemployment.
Enrolment is voluntary, and sees youths receive a stipend while receiving technical training and working on government projects.
In one example of the corruption, Kenyan media have reported how the NYS paid $10 million for beef in one year — meaning each recruit would have had to consume 66 kilos (145 pounds) of beef a day.
A joint statement from 18 foreign diplomats, including the ambassadors for the United Stated, United Kingdom, Germany, European Union, Australia and Canada, welcomed the swift charging of officials over the scandal.
“Corruption has long undermined Kenya’s prosperity, security, and democracy. It is, quite simply, theft from the Kenyan people.
We urge that Kenya’s judiciary take swift action, consistent with the rule of law, to ensure fair trials and justice,” read the statement.
However numerous commentators have raised concerns that small fish were being sacrificed in the probe, with the youth minister in charge of the NYS at the time of the plunder going unscathed, as well other top officials, company directors and bank managers.
The Daily Nation recalled Tuesday that in a previous scandal at the NYS in 2015, when $7 million was stolen through inflated pricing and fictitious payments, all suspects were freed for lack of evidence in March this year.
In an editorial the paper called for the halt of “corruption mania” and said there “must absolutely be no sacred cows.”
The ruling “Jubilee has a rotten record of enforcing integrity in public office. Arrests are made, charges are brought, games are played and the corrupt go scot-free.”