June 13, 2018 / 3:16 PM / 6 months ago

Kenya's top prosecutor says anti-graft body's evidence too weak to prosecute

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s public prosecutor said on Wednesday several recent investigations by the national anti-graft agency into alleged corruption by officials had gaps and lacked strong evidence, forcing him to return the cases to the agency for further work.

Noordin Mohamed Haji’s remarks to the Kenyan Senate in a hearing highlighted the challenge facing the East African government in its renewed push to tackle graft through prosecution.

Though there are several government agencies working on various aspects of the effort to investigate and prosecute the looting of public funds, observers say the institutions are weak and sometimes work at cross-purposes.

“I’m not saying there’s no...case. The case is there, but I need evidence to be able to prosecute,” said Haji, who was the deputy director of Kenya’s national intelligence service before his appointment by President Uhuru Kenyatta in March.

He was referring to investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) into what that body described to Kenyan media last week as three sitting county governors and one who left office last year.

Kenyatta pledged to stamp out graft when first elected in 2013, but critics say he has been slow to pursue top officials.

Dozens of scandals related to the alleged theft of billions of Kenyan shillings have been reported by Kenyan media since 2013. Some court cases based on EACC investigations are underway.

But few high profile convictions have occurred since Kenyatta took office, leaving many Kenyans sceptical about the latest moves to prosecute dozens of civil servants over the disappearanced of nearly $100 million from the coffers of a government agency.

The EACC’s chief executive, Halakhe Waqo, was reported by Kenyan media last Thursday to have said that the investigations into these officials been under way for a year or more and that he expected Haji to make arrests quickly.

EACC spokesman Yassin Amaro told Reuters Haji had returned three of the four investigations that the EACC has transferred to him last week. However, he said, the body was confident it could fill in the gaps pointed out by the prosecutor’s office.

Speaking before the Senate on Wednesday, Haji said that his preferred approach would be for his prosecutors to work alongside investigators from the EACC, instead of only receiving the investigations after they are complete.

“That’s what, moving forward, we are planning to do,” he said.

Reporting by Humphrey Malalo and Carlos Mureithi; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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