The integrity of Kenya’s Minister for Local Government, Uhuru Kenyatta, was called into question Wednesday following the arrest of his aide, Mr. Justus Kariuki, who was caught red-handed with over US$ 2,800 alleged to be a bribe he had received to influence the minister to nominate a woman civic leader in the Nairobi City Council.
Mr. Kariuki was arraigned in a court charged with fraud and abuse of office . When asked by arresting officers from the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC ) to account for the huge bundles of notes found on him, the aide could only mumble: “I have only Ksh140,000 (US$ 2,000). This is my money.”
However, he did not disclose the source until KACC officers showed him photocopies of the same notes he was carrying.
The KACC told reporters that they laid a trap for Mr. Kariuki upon receiving a tip off that the minister’s personal assistant was part of a ring of criminals that extorts hefty bribes from unsuspecting members of the public in exchange for favours – allegedly – from Mr. Kenyatta.
Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s founding president, has not reacted to the scandal that is likely to further dent the image of the ministry, which KACC has consistently ranked among the top five graft-infested institutions in the country alongside the police, judiciary and the ministry of health.
Last month, the minister came under a heavy barrage of criticism for irregularly nominating and gazetting councilors above the number required by law.
The Electoral Commission of Kenya faulted him for contravening the law governing the nomination and gazetting of civic leaders.
The minister vied for president in the 2002 general election and lost to President Mwai Kibaki.
Under Kenya’s civic authorities law, the minister is allowed to nominate leaders to municipal bodies to bolster the number of elected councilors.
However, Wednesday’s revelation that some civic leaders earned their nomination after bribing influential officers in the ministry is likely to pile pressure on the minister to revoke his appointments to restore integrity in the management o f local authorities. Panapress