May 20, 2018 / 10:19 AM / in 6 months

Kenyan investigators to question more than 40 people over 'massive theft'

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan investigators have summoned more than 40 people for questioning after a “massive theft of public funds” at the country’s National Youth Service (NYS), the head of the directorate of criminal investigations said on Sunday.

Domestic media reports said 10 billion shillings ($100 million) had been stolen through fictitious invoices, and multiple payments on one supplier invoice, at the NYS.

The reports have dismayed many Kenyans, particularly as it follows another scam at the agency, which is supposed to equip the young with key skills and help create jobs, back in 2015.

George Kinoti, the director of criminal investigations (DCI), told Reuters his organisation had summoned government officials and business people who had been paid by the agency for supplying various goods and services, calling the issue a “scam” and a “fraud”.

“It is massive theft of public funds,” he said, without giving an exact figure for the lost funds.

“Our aim is to have anybody who is involved in theft of public funds to answer and if possible to return what they have stolen from the public.”

The head of the NYS, Richard Ndubai, and a top official at the ministry of public service, youth and gender services, Lillian Mbogo-Omollo, stepped aside from their jobs temporarily on Friday to give space to investigators, the presidency said.

The investigation by the DCI was expected to be concluded soon. “Within three, four, five days, you will see us in court,” Kinoti said.

Ndubai and Mbogo-Omollo were not immediately available for comment.

Despite pledges when he was first elected in 2013 to crack down on corruption, critics say President Uhuru Kenyatta has been slow to pursue top officials, adding that only big-name convictions will break what they call a culture of impunity.

Kenyatta has blamed lethargy on the part of some government agencies tasked with fighting corruption for the slow progress.

There have not been any significant convictions of the people involved in the theft of funds at the NYS in 2015 despite several prosecutions taking place in court.

($1 = 100.3500 Kenyan shillings)

Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Mark Potter

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