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Corruption, the Boogeyman: 12 Scandals that Shook Kenya

Currently, the country is marred with civil unrest with protests, some violent, witnessed across Kenya. The discussion, which began on social media spaces, on the state of the nation about the government’s economic policies has morphed into street protests begging questions on an array of issues facing our great country.


The protests which initially revolved around the rejection of the Finance Bill 2024, have opened Pandora’s box and exposed the underbelly of a government riddled with corruption and mutilation of the progressive 2010 constitution. Several issues have been raised that initially stared us in the face, but the political class and older generation swept under the rug.

Issues such as corruption, misappropriation of public funds, nepotism, tribalism, unethical appointments, government extravagance, sabotage of state projects, disregard of court orders, and the rule of law by those in power are rife in conversations.

Corruption in Kenya
Thika Mp Alice Ng’ang’a flaunting cash on social media

During a media interview on Sunday, June 30, with journalists from Nation Media, Standard Group, and the Royal Media Services at State House, the president said he was ready to engage the youth on emerging issues affecting governance and growth.

However, the journalists relayed that the public sentiment on the president is that he is tone-deaf and does not listen to the needs of the citizens, hence the loss of confidence in just under two years in office. So far, youth representatives who have come out to engage with the head of state are affiliates of the ruling party, baring the blatant hoodwink, emo of the administration.

Corruption in Kenya.
The president was spotted wearing a Ksh 8 million BVLGARI watch, a show of largesse and extravagance in a ‘dilapidated economy’. [Photo Courtesy The Kenya Times]

However, the current state of the nation is a product of decades of corruption and bad governance by those in power. In the past two decades, Kenya has borrowed heavily to service development and government functions, however, the majority of the funds have been misappropriated, meaning there is no return on investment to service the loans, forcing the government to draft bills with punitive taxes to increase revenue and avoid default, despite the current administration promising no additional punitive taxes on the campaign trail. This necessitates the need for an audit of the national debt.

Corruption in Kenya
On the campaign trail, the current government led by President Ruto promised to do away with punitive taxes and listen to the hustlers in policy adoption, a promise that has since not been realized.

The following are some of the major corruption scandals that have rocked the nation in the past two decades, most of which have gone unsolved.

1. Goldenberg Scandal (1990s)

Although it started earlier, the effects of the Goldenberg scandal extended into the 2000s. This scandal involved the government compensating Goldenberg International for fictitious exports of gold and diamonds. It is estimated to have cost Kenya about $600 million.

The mastermind behind the plan was a relative of Kenyan businessman Kamlesh Pattni, though it was Pattni who founded Goldenberg International to carry out the scheme. Numerous politicians from both the Moi and Kibaki administrations have been implicated. Additionally, the judicial system seems to have been significantly involved, as evidenced by the resignation of twenty-three senior judges in Kenya following revelations of their participation.

2. Anglo Leasing Scandal (2004)

This involved a series of government contracts awarded to non-existent companies for the delivery of goods and services, mainly security-related equipment. The scandal is believed to have cost the Kenyan government around $770 million.

3. Triton Oil Scandal (2008)

Triton Petroleum Company fraudulently obtained petroleum products using letters of credit and then sold them without repaying the financiers. This led to a loss of about $100 million.

 4. Mau Forest Scandal (2009)

This scandal involved the illegal allocation of forest land in the Mau Forest Complex to private individuals, including prominent politicians and businessmen, leading to significant environmental degradation.

5.Free Primary Education Scandal (2009)

Misappropriation of funds meant for the Free Primary Education program was uncovered, with reports indicating the loss of billions of shillings, leading to a funding freeze by some international donors.

6. NHIF Scandal (2012)

Funds from the National Health Insurance Fund meant for civil servants’ medical insurance were embezzled. The scandal involved the allocation of funds to ghost clinics and dubious service providers.

Photo Courtesy Nation

7. Youth Fund Scandal (2016)

Senior officials were implicated in the embezzlement of around $17 million from the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, which was intended to provide loans to young entrepreneurs.

 8. NYS Scandals (2015 and 2018)

The National Youth Service (NYS) was at the center of two major corruption cases. In 2015, approximately $8 million was stolen through fictitious contracts, and in 2018, another $78 million was lost similarly.

9. Afya House Scandal (2016)

Funds meant for the Ministry of Health were misappropriated. An internal audit revealed that around $50 million was lost through inflated prices, fictitious supply of goods, and diversion of funds.

10. Dams Scandal (2019)

This involved the alleged embezzlement of funds allocated for the construction of Arror and Kimwarer dams in Elgeyo-Marakwet County. The scandal involved inflated contracts and loss of over $78 million.

11. Covid-19 Fund Scandal (2020)

Funds and medical supplies meant to combat the COVID-19 pandemic were misappropriated. The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) was implicated in the irregular procurement and mismanagement of funds, leading to losses estimated at over $70 million.

12. Fake Fertilizer (2024)

This year, fake fertilizer found its way into the hand of Kenyan farmers, destroying arable land ad crippling food production across the country. The cabinet secretary responsible for the ministry is still part of the current administration with the president terming “lack of evidence” as the basis of not firing him.

Therefore, the conversation on governance and holding the political class accountable is a welcome development by the youth, who form the largest demographic with more than 60% currently unemployed, to address the bogeyman.


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