UK Cuts Education Aid Once Again in Lastest Round on Kenyan Education Scandals (Updated)

Update, June 16: The Irish Times reports that the U.K. will “push hard” for return of its share of stolen education aid funds.

The country’s finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta said the names of officials investigated had been given to the police, but analysts said the chances of prosecutions were low.

“Handing over reports to the criminal investigations department of the Kenyan police force is a good way of shelving investigations,” said Mwalimu Mati, chief executive officer at the corruption watchdog Mars Group Kenya. “It is hard to see how such a discredited police force can bring about justice when they are still investing in Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg.”

The Goldenberg scandal, which cost the country over 10 per cent of GDP, dates back to the early 1990s. It saw the government of Kenya pay out hundreds of millions of dollars of public money in a bogus gold export scheme. No government officials have been prosecuted for their part in it.

Despite coming to power in December 2002 on a strong anti-graft platform, President Mwai Kibaki has failed to stamp out corruption in east Africa’s largest economy. Kenya has slipped down the rankings of Transparency International’s 2010 corruption perceptions index, falling to 154 out of 178 countries.

Last year the government said it could be losing $4 billion, nearly one-third of the national budget, to kickbacks and other forms of corruption.

“Kenya is good at talking about corruption cases,” Teresa Omondi, the deputy executive director of Transparency International – Kenya, said, “but not at prosecuting anyone in them. The fact that no stringent action is ever taken means there is a risk of us hearing about all this again next year.”

“UK cuts education aid by Sh300m”, Daily Nation:

The government was on Tuesday put under pressure to rein in corruption within its ranks, with the United Kingdom announcing a Sh300 million education budget cut.

British High Commissioner Rob Macaire said that they will continue funding education, but only through non-governmental channels until the Ministry of Education adopted prudent financial management systems.

This year, the British Government has allocated Sh1.3 billion to fund various educational programmes through these channels.

“It is shocking that civil servants in trusted positions in the government would steal such an amount of money.

“We share in the outrage of Kenyans about this, because there is UK taxpayers money involved too,” Mr Macaire said.

He was responding to fresh investigations by Treasury over a Sh4.2 billion fraud in the Education ministry.

“This should not be allowed, neither tolerated,” he said, adding that the culprits should be prosecuted.

So far, the Department for International Development (DfID) has supplied 320,000 children in slums with textbooks in 1,100 selected schools.

Mr Mike Harrison, deputy director at DfID, said unless financial transactions are electronic, they would not fund the ministry.

“We need some concrete proof that the financial management in the ministry are turned around.

“Electronic money transfer will have to be at the heart of the system unlike today where paper transfer is easily doctored.”

.  .  .  .

See, “Treasury audit reveals Sh5.8bn fraud”, Daily Nation.  “Education and Medical Services staff probed over Sh 6.2bn loss“, The Star.

More Corruption Headlines

VOA features a story datelined Washington entitled “Kenyan Activist Demands War on the Corrupt“.

The Standard says “KACC goes for big shots in war on vice“.

No specific news on some of the current/recent matters we have followed in the first two months of this blog: missing Public Education funds; Grand Regency sale; Rift Valley Railroad deal; ECK, etc.  A lot less news lately about Mau Forest land, too. But the President has, according to the VOA story, ordered a fresh look at corruption and called a meeting, at which the PM will also speak.  It would appear that the revived US and British attention to the Public Education matter has generated a need for some new optics from the Government of Kenya.  In the past this would suggest that the time is approaching for the donors to move on and get over it–perhaps we will be wiser this time.

Continuing Corruption Story on Primary School Funds

The Standard reports on the numbers disclosed in the Nairobi Star story mentioned in my last post.

via The Standard | Online Edition :: New Sh5.5b puzzle hits Jogoo House school funds.

And make no mistake about how badly needed these funds are. The reality remained during my time in Nairobi in 2007-2008 that even in the capital the public schools were treated by parents as a last resort. Classroom conditions were very poor even where the exteriors were brightly painted, sometimes by advertisers. And of course no electricity. These funds were certainly needed.

Corruption: Kenya’s Cancer

This is a Sunday dose of impassioned moralism. It may not be to your taste.

AFRICOG has come out with a December report on the Maize Scandal. The Star reports that the Public Education Scandal is about to explode, indicating that the amount of directly missing funds is roughly Sh5.5B, with millions taken each year of the program during the whole course of the program! We are talking here about the rich and powerful exploiting hunger and the poverty of children to line their pockets that much more thickly.

This is not a traffic policeman shaking down a middle class driver for lunch money or petty bureaucratic clerk in a postal service. I don’t claim to be an expert on the world–and I am not arguing abstract development theory. Even if people like Ha-Joon Chang, and to a lesser extent Jeffrey Sachs, are right that Westerners from developed nations tend to overemphasize the importance and explanatory role of corruption in overall economic analysis, I think it is still clear that in Kenya today corruption is a metastasizing cancer that will be the death of meaningful democracy if left untreated. The fact that there is no defined “cure” does not mean that we shouldn’t do our best to treat it.

It is a fool’s errand to have high expectations of the kind of people who steal bread from the hungriest and school funds for the poorest–the bottom line is that they just don’t really care about anyone other than themselves. They can be counted on to be immoral or amoral at best and are not going to be actually subject to moral suasion as opposing to pretending. They might on some occasions for whatever reason do things that are desirable–they may have traits like physical courage or resoluteness or articulation skills that prove useful. But they can never be trusted. Likewise, people that steal elections are not democrats–and as the insightful quote in Michaela Wrong’s It’s Our Turn to Eat points out, stealing an election is pretty much the ultimate form of corruption in a democracy: it takes away the very sovereignty of the voting public and steals the most from those who have no other form of power other than the vote.

So what is the treatment? It’s not Tweets, nor, for that matter, blog posts. “Name and shame” doesn’t work where there is no shame. What is required is accountability which means prosecutions and asset seizures. If non-Kenyan actors and institutions want to help they will stop playing Hamlet and decide to consistently be in favor, and act in favor, of this type of actual accountability. The policy of my country, the United States, has been over a period of years, so inconsistent as to be incomprehensible. Likewise the British. France has become a big donor to Kenya for whatever reason–and has spoken some good words, but I haven’t picked up on much in terms of action.

We have arrived now at one of those times when both the US and the UK have shifted some in the direction of expressing dissatisfaction with part of the Kenyan political class in government. We have been here before and they have always in the past “gotten over it” before anyone went to jail or lost his or her ill gotten wealth. Before there was always a distraction or excuse that arose. Some other priority involving some neighboring country perhaps. I certainly hope that those lessons have now been learned. The patient is obviously sick and candy or sugar pills will not take the place of medicine.

UK Takes an Action on Kenyan Corruption–Ongoing Education Scandal

Daily Nation’s Jeff Otieno:   UK Withholds Kenya Education Funding for Corruption, Wants Prosecution

Update December 14:  As Much as 6 Billion Sh. Stolen from “Free Primary Education” Funding–http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/822668/-/vo33eb/-/index.html