A Kenyan employee at the Embassy of Sweden in Nairobi is under investigation for allegedly aiding a corruption network to defraud a Swedish agency of at least Swedish Krona (SEK) 5.7 million (Sh62.7 million).
The details, which were first published by Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, involve payments by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to a Non-Governmental Organisation involved in democracy campaigns in Kenya and across Africa.
At the centre of the fraud claim is a portion of the SEK23 million (Sh253 million) that Sida wants refunded by the South Africa-based Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy (EISA).
The Kenyan employee at the embassy is alleged to have been the conduit between Sida’s external payments and some EISA staff or partners over the past four years and may have taken advantage of the “organisational memory” to divert some of the money.
Sida has issued a demand notice to EISA to return the Sh62.7 million after its internal investigations found the NGO had flouted procurement regulations in dealing with its Kenyan partners.
In October, Dagens Nyheter reported that this money is part of a “larger corruption network” in Nairobi involving civil society groups that entered partnership agreements with EISA. The NGO was found to have paid out money to other organisations it identified as partners even when there had been no formal contracts on the kind of work they did.
In addition, Sida found that some of the money paid out by EISA was “unreasonable”, according to the Swedish daily and that the NGO did not account for all the money it received.
Last week, Sida said it was demanding back its money because EISA violated the contract it had with the Swedish agency.
“Sida has claimed repayment of funds from EISAs operations in Kenya since the funds have not been used according to our agreement,” Torbjörn Pettersson, the Assistant Director General for Sida and head of Africa Department told the Nation.
“We have also notified EISA about termination of that particular agreement. However Sida’s contribution to EISA’s work continues in other African countries, for example in Somalia and in Mozambique,” the official added.
The Kenyan staff, who Sida declined to name, had earlier been suspended for involvement in the theft of at least SEK250,000 (Sh2.75 million) which was part of the money paid out by Sida for Kenyan projects. Last week, the agency said it has since terminated the employment and contacted the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to deal with it.
“During the investigation we do not disclose any information about the findings since that could compromise the legal process. Today we do not see any effects on other programmes in our development co-operation,” Mr Pattersson said in an e-mail to the Nation.
EISA is often involved in projects related to improving management of elections, democracy and other governance issues across Africa. Some of its donors include Sida, governments of Denmark, Finland, US, UK, Canada, Norway and the UN Democracy Fund.
In Kenya, the organisation has operated since 2010, helping the then Interim Independent Electoral Commission with training on handling the referendum as well as working with Parliament to draft laws on devolution among other projects.
EISA officials acknowledged the suspension of funding from Sida but refused to comment in detail.
“We advise that the matter is in progress. On advice from our Board of Directors we have kept the matter between Sida and ourselves and have been in communication with Sida, giving our side of the story,” Ilona Tip, the Operations Director at EISA told the Nation, adding that a comprehensive statement would be issued at the end of the process.
Sida is a big spender on Kenyan projects.