Kenya’s finance minister, Henry Rotch, will be arrested and charged over alleged corruption related to the construction of two dams, the chief prosecutor said on Monday.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Noordin Haji, said the charges against Rotich stem from a police investigation into the misuse of funds in a dam project overseen by the Italian construction company, CMC Di Ravenna.
Rotich denied any wrongdoing in a large newspaper advertisement in March. The company has also denied any wrongdoing.
Haji said Rotich and his co-accused face eight charges, ranging from conspiring to defraud and financial misconduct
He said the minister and other officials will immediately have to resign and will be arrested and taken to court.
Kenyan prosecutors have requested help from British and Italian authorities, he said, and more charges could result.
The minister will be charged alongside 27 other senior officials, including Italian Paolo Porcelli, the director of CMC di Ravenna; and Rotich’s number two at the ministry, Kamau Thugge, the principal secretary.
“They broke the law on public finance management under the guise of carrying out legitimate commercial transactions, colossal amounts were unjustifiably and illegally paid out through a well choreographed scheme by government officers in collusion with private individuals and institutions,” Haji told a news conference.
The two dams were budgeted to cost 46 billion shillings (446 million dollars), he said, but the treasury borrowed far more.
“The national treasury negotiated a commercial facility increasing the amount to approximately 63 billion shillings – which is 17 billion more than necessary or required, payable on a timely basis without regard to a performance or works,” he said.
The indictment of Rotich will send shockwaves through the political elite, who are accustomed to lurid graft scandals resulting in little official action.
Rotich’s arrest may also be seen as further evidence of growing distance between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.
Rotich was appointed at Ruto’s request. Ruto has made clear that he expects to receive the ruling coalition’s nomination for the presidency in the 2022, in spite objections from some in Kenyatta’s camp.
“Corruption always fights back. There may be elements, who may seek to exploit these indictments to instigate social unrest,’’ Haji said.
The government would be watching, he said, and would respond robustly.