Kenya's vice president connects with corruption scandal

Members of a parliamentary watchdog committee grilled Vice President Moody Awori Wednesday over his alleged involvement in a multimillion dollar (euro) corruption scandal that has triggered the firing or resignation of three Cabinet ministers. Awori is the first sitting vice president to appear before the parliament's Public Accounts Committee. He is also the highest ranking official to be questioned in the scandal involving security contracts with a fictional company called Anglo Leasing, vice presidential spokesman Brown Kutswa said.

"I do not know what he will tell the committee, but he has nothing to hide and has not been involved in any corruption," Kutswa told The Associated Press. Members of the committee want to know why Awori, who at one time was also the minister for internal affairs, authorized deals with a company that existed only on paper to print new, tamperproof passports and computerize Kenya's immigration department.

They also want to know why Awori told the parliament that the deals were legitimate and would save the government some money, after lawmakers said there was possible corruption. The committee also want to know why he continued authorizing payments even after it became clear that Anglo Leasing did not exist.

The Anglo Leasing scandal has shaken the government of President Mwai Kibaki, who was elected in 2003 on an anti-corruption ticket. The scandal dashed hopes that Kibaki would end corruption that had become endemic under the 39-year rule of the Kenya African National Union party he ousted when he came to power.

Parliament first revealed the scams in April 2004, but they gained further prominence on Jan. 22 when John Githongo, who served as Kibaki's anti-corruption ombudsman for two years until February 2005, went public to say that in November he submitted a dossier on the deals to Kibaki and the commission. Githongo said that the dossier detailed his investigation and conversations with the ministers and with the president about the fraud.

Githongo later released audio tapes in which former Justice Minister Kiraitu Murungi is allegedly heard pressing him to slow down investigations into graft. Last week, Githongo testified before members of the Public Accounts Committee who traveled to London to meet him and provided evidence to back his allegations that senior politicians were behind multimillion dollar fraud schemes. On Jan. 24, Awori was questioned by Kenya 's Anti-Corruption Commission over his role in a Ђ 31.8 million (US$37.86 million) contracts for the immigration department, reports the AP.


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