The British government has sharply differed with Kenyan authorities over the planned repatriation and use of money recovered from the so-called Chickengate scandal.
UK authorities have rejected assertions that they ‘dictated’ how the £349,057.39 (Sh50.05 million at current exchange rates) would be used, putting Kenya’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Authority (EACC) chief executive Halakhe Waqo , on the spot for possible breach of Chapter Six of the Constitution and perjury.
Mr Waqo last Wednesday told the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee that the British government had directed that funds confiscated from the Chickengate firm be used to buy ambulances.
But London’s Department for International Development (DFID) said it had strongly recommended that the money be used to buy bed nets for pregnant mothers and young children in malaria-prone areas but added that discussions were still ongoing on the matter when Mr Waqo told Parliament of the attempt to dictate use of the cash.
“DFID is not in a position to dictate or give any orders. This is money belonging to the Kenyan people and should be used to directly benefit the Kenyan people,” said Tony Gardner, the Deputy Head of DFID Kenya, in an exclusive interview with the Business Daily.
“Our suggestion is to buy bed nets. Our choice is based on our knowledge of the health sector, including the fact that malaria has funding gaps, and we have a well-established supply route.”
The Chickengate cash is enough to buy about 140,000 bed nets, DFID said, noting that increased coverage of insecticide-treated bed nets is key in lowering child mortality and reducing the risk of malaria to pregnant women.
Mr Gardner said British authorities were in favour of investing the money in projects that secure maximum benefits to Kenyans and have pretty small operating costs and hence ensuring most of the funds go into the social venture rather than administrative costs.
DFID said it has never held talks with the EACC on the use of the Chickengate funds, adding it had only talked to the Treasury and the Presidency.
London’s Southwark Crown Court on January 8, 2016 seized the assets of Smith & Ouzman, the UK printer at the centre of the bribery scam, to pay a total of £2.39 million (Sh351 million) in fines and penalties for paying Kenyan electoral and examination officials bribes codenamed ‘chicken’.
The UK’s Serious Fraud Office then in February announced that Kenyan taxpayers — who bore the brunt of the inflated printing tenders — are entitled to receive reparations equivalent to the £349,057.39 that Smith & Ouzman paid in kickbacks to win lucrative tenders at IIEC and Knec.
DFID — Britain’s international development agency — is expected to invest the funds in a legacy project in areas such as education, water and health for the benefit of the Kenyan people.
A new fully equipped four-wheel drive ambulance costs about Sh8 million, meaning the seized funds can only buy six ambulances.
Credit: Business Daily