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The Long Road To Recovery – Kenya’s Stolen Assets

Over the course of the past year the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has recovered approximately Sh22.56 billion worth of illegally acquired public assets and claims to have averted losses of around Sh135 billion through disruptions.

The figures are a vast improvement on 2018, when the EACC claims to have recovered Sh2.4 billion. In 2019 the arrest of former finance minister Henry Rotich also provided hope for some that Kenya is finally on the right path to tackling corruption.

Among those officials recently charged with corruption-related offences are Governors Mike Sonko (Nairobi), Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu), Moses Lenolkulal (Samburu) and Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia), as well as former governors Evans Kidero and Daniel Waithaka. 

The EACC has both conducted reviews of government organisations and public bodies and filed a number of civil suits for the recovery of assets on the back of identified irregularities.

However, the hope for more is still there and the Public Prosecutor Noordin Haji has stated that the estimated amount of stolen funds amounts to $2 billion, meaning that the state has only recovered around 1% of stolen assets to date. Furthermore, the conviction rate is low and there seems to be a dubious lack of progress in some big cases that would appear to present an opportunity for a quick win by a committed administration.

For example, in July 2018 Kenya and Switzerland signed an agreement for the repatriation of corrupt money to the country. The money, $2.02 million, was frozen by the Swiss authorities in connection with the notorious Anglo Leasing scandal in 2009. However, it remains in Switzerland as the Swiss Office of the Attorney General is awaiting a court decision in Kenya to order “the confiscation of the assets in question.” Anti-corruption activists such as John Githongo have suggested the delays may be deliberate and can be expected to persist.

The appointment of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji by President Kenyatta in 2018 was seen as a step in the right direction in strengthening the fight against corruption. However, there is still a huge backlog in cases. For example, according to EACC CEO Twalib Mbarak there are at least 357 cases worth Sh8.5 billion pending at various Land and Environment Courts in the country.

There is also an argument to be made that anti-corruption forces in Kenya are woefully underfunded. The budget allocation for the EACC in 2019/20 was Sh 2.9 billion. Yet, if it is able to recover ten times its budget then perhaps government should invest more if it is serious about results.

It can be hard to tell the difference between cases where the delay to prosecution is because of the requirement to collect comprehensive or sufficient evidence in order to secure conviction and recovery, and when the brakes have been applied in order to purposefully delay justice and protect politically connected individuals. Citizens and anti-corruption campaigners must remain vigilant and keep asking people in authority the right questions.


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