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Kenya’s stolen billions hidden in 7 countries

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The Government of Kenya has written to at least seven countries seeking details on billions of shillings suspected to be stashed abroad by influential individuals, including prominent politicians and businessmen.

In a decisive step that marks renewed efforts after previous failed attempts to recover money hidden abroad, top officials have told the Sunday Nation there will soon be nowhere to hide for those who have attempted to avoid scrutiny of local bank accounts by hiding money in foreign countries, some of which have a dubious reputation as safe havens for ill-gotten wealth.

On Saturday, two separate sources from institutions charged with fighting graft confirmed that the Attorney-General had written to seven countries seeking information about bank accounts and assets in the names of Kenyan citizens, which are suspected to have been proceeds of corruption. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations are involved in the process and are said to be cross-checking details they hold about prominent individuals.

While EACC deputy CEO Michael Mubea acknowledged requests had been made to a number of countries for co-operation in the investigations, he declined to provide further details that could threaten bilateral relationships.

“We have made certain requests to certain countries and we are hoping for the best,” Mr Mubea said.

Another source who requested to speak in confidence expressed shock at what the preliminary interactions with the countries where monies are hidden were revealing.

“We are on the right path and we have gained access to accounts that we have never even heard of in the past. Some of the countries we have reached out to have never featured in our radar, ever,” the source said, pointing to the great lengths the corrupt are going to hide their loot.

It is the work of the Multi-Agency Taskforce that includes EACC, the National Treasury, the Kenya Revenue Authority, the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) and the DCI.

Attorney-General Paul Kihara, who we were told was directly involved in the matter, did not respond to our queries.

The Sunday Nation has learnt that some of the foreign jurisdictions the government could have approached include Dubai that has lately become attractive to Kenyans who want to hide their wealth, United Kingdom, Mauritius and Switzerland.

“Already, a number of assets that belong to Kenyans have been traced to the UK, especially in London. Dubai is the other place,” our source, who has links to the Multi-Agency Taskforce, said.

In recent weeks, Australia has also emerged as one of the destinations the corrupt are going to hide their loot.

This emerged after the money trail led investigators to Australia as they investigated Migori Governor Okoth Obado. Investigators allege that the governor and his children travelled to Australia carrying Sh4.5 million, part of which EACC discovered could have been laundered at a casino in Australia.

Kenya has this year signed agreements with United Kingdom and Switzerland, the Framework for the Return of Assets from Corruption and Crime in Kenya, whose ultimate aim is to have a structured way of engaging in helping with the recovery of ill-acquired wealth stashed in their territories. Jersey is also expected to sign the deal.

“The countries we have signed pacts with have agreed to co-operate with us in doing the investigations,” Ms Muthoni Kimani, who heads the Asset Recovery Agency, said.

An amnesty period issued by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich that ended in July saw no one come forward to declare that they have foreign bank accounts despite a new report by National Bureau of Economic Research, a US-based think-tank, showing that Sh5 trillion is held in offshore accounts.

The amnesty was applicable to those who have unknown business and bank accounts abroad.

nation.co.ke

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Uhuru’s housing project in limbo as Treasury CS says there is no money

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President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pet project of affordable housing for the country is facing financial turbulence.

This comes after National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani admitted before a parliamentary committee that the government may not allocate money in the next financial year due to a dip in national revenue collection.

After President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in for his second and last term in 2017, he announced his Big Four agenda for the country which include, manufacturing, universal health coverage, food security and affordable housing.

Under the housing, the President outlined his government’s plan to construct at least 500,000 housing units across the country by 2022.

To construct 100,000 units, the government requires about Sh45 billion so as to attract investors to pump in more money into the programme.

But while appearing before the Transport, Public Works and Housing Committee of the National Assembly Thursday, Mr Yattani noted that his ministry is facing financial difficulties and that he cannot guarantee the availability of the funds required for the project.

“We may not provide anything in the next financial year,” Mr Yattani told the committee chaired by Pokot South MP David Pkosing.

Transport, Public Works and Housing Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, who also appeared before the committee, noted that the government now intends to bring onboard the Saccos.

According to Mr Macharia, 228 units of the 1,370 units being the first phase along Park road in the city’s Ngara estate, have been completed and handed over to the government.

The projected completion of the entire project is December this year.

In the current financial year, Sh5 billion has been set aside for the programme and will be fully disbursed after Mr Macharia complained that out the allocation, only Sh1 billion has been given out.

Mr Macharia told the committee that it was regrettable there will be no money to fund the President’s legacy project noting that if the requested amount was availed, the country would be having 130,000 units.

He noted that given the reality that the country may not have the money required, it may be prudent to explore the mortgage culture and rope in the low-income bracket.

“Currently there are about 25,000 mortgages in the country, which by any standards is quite low. This culture needs to change. The ministry is encouraging investors to come in and take risk by putting up houses for sale,” Mr Macharia said.

He noted that the government will provide the required land, infrastructure, water and power among other things to support the investors in this.

“With all this provided, the cost of putting up houses might go down by up to 40 percent. This is the strategy that we want to use,” he said.

Mr Yattani explained to the committee that the Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company (KMRC) will also play a key role in boosting the success of affordable housing programme.

KMRC was incorporated in April 2018, to provide secure long-term funding to primary mortgage lenders (Banks and Saccos) in order to increase availability and affordability of housing loans to Kenyans.

Mr Macharia told the committee that the take-off of the project faced setbacks due to delays in the implementation of mandatory contribution and lack of support from the public as provided for in the Finance Act, 2018.

The law had made it mandatory that workers contribute 1.5 percent of their basic salaries with their respective employers contributing a similar figure to finance the project.

However, the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) obtained court orders to suspend the implementation of the mandatory contribution.

Before the matter could be determined in court, President Kenyatta while leading the country to mark Jamuhuri Day celebrations on December 12, last year, he decreed that changes be made to the Finance Act to make the contribution voluntary.

by Nation

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Dreamliner KQ ranked last among 10 carriers in the Middle East and Africa

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A strike and pilot sabotage are among factors that dragged Kenya Airways to the bottom of Middle East and African carriers’ ranking in the 2019 on-time performance (OTP) review.

The update done by Cirium, a London-based airlines advisory and consultancy firm, rates global airlines through their on-time arrivals, departures, average delay in minutes per flight and those that operate within scheduled time.

TIME ARRIVAL

The airline was ranked last among the 10 carriers in Middle East and Africa, a blow to the carrier that saw its losses double last year.

The rating saw Kenya’s national carrier come in 10th with a 72.25 per cent on time arrival of flights just below Addis Ababa-based Ethiopian Airlines at 74.22 per cent.

Qatar Airline was ranked top with 82.45 per cent on time arrival, followed by Dubai-headquartered Emirates Airlines at 81.02 per cent and troubled South African Airlines at 79.38 per cent, coming a close third in terms of punctuality.

KQ had an average of 47 minutes in delays for its over 54,061 flights it operated last year, a slight improvement of its 50 minutes in 2018.

“Arriving on time at a destination is becoming increasingly important to millions of both leisure and business passengers around the world every day. Therefore, our on-time performance review 2019 is designed to inspire airlines and airports to continually innovate to improve their performance,” the report said.

PILOT SHORTAGE

Kenya Airways Director of Operations Capt Paul Njoroge attributed the poor show in flight performance to aircraft withdrawals as a result of collision mid last year and industrial action by the airlines unionised employees.

“We were then negatively affected by the withdrawal of two aircraft due to the unfortunate incident in the hangar.

This was then coupled by the Kenya Airlines Workers Union (KAWU) strike and pilot shortage in the second and third quarter of last year, which saw the on time performance drop to as low as 67 per cent in August 2019,” Capt Njoroge said, adding that this was way below the 81 per cent performance they had achieved by April of last year.

In February last year, two of the airline’s Embraer 190 aircraft collided in the hangar while undergoing maintenance which saw them withdrawn from service.

Three months later, the airline’s unionisable employees under KAWU went on strike, protesting against the proposed merger between the national carrier Kenya Airways and the airports regulator. This saw more than 24 of its flights cancelled, while more suffered incessant delays.

By Nation

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Kenya to import US wheat from Idaho, Oregon, and Washington

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Kenya has agreed to lift a decade-old prohibition on US wheat following a deal between President President Uhuru Kenyatta and Donald Trump.

It will see American wheat from Idaho, Oregon, and Washington states shipped to Kenya regardless of state of origin or port of export, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in a statement.

For the last 12 years, Kenya has locked wheat from the three states, citing prevalence of a fungal disease known as flag smut of wheat (urocystis agropyri).

“American farmers in the Pacific Northwest now have full access to the Kenyan wheat market,” USDA Undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programms Greg Ibach said in a statement.

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) and APHIS/PPQ of the US signed the Export Certification Protocol allowing the wheat imports to Kenya on January 28.

The protocol gives US exporters full access to Kenya’s wheat market, valued at nearly Sh50 billion ($500 million) annually.

Kenya is a net importer of wheat, bringing in two-thirds of its requirement to meet the annual consumption of 900,000 tonnes against the production of 350,000 tonnes.

Kenya charges 10 percent duty on all imported wheat, which is cheaper than the locally-produced commodity.

As part of the technical agreement, APHIS of the US will enhance general surveillance for the fungal-disease-prone wheat.

The win for US farmers comes amid discussion for a free trade pact between Nairobi and Washington.

“Going forward, the USDA team looks forward to building on this success and further strengthening our relationship with Kenya as we pursue a new bilateral free trade agreement that will create additional market opportunities for US producers and exporters,” said US Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney in a statement.

President Trump and President Kenyatta announced intention to start formal talks on a trade agreement.

President Kenyatta had said a new trade deal could make Kenya a hub for US companies doing business in Africa.

By Nation

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