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Food aid graft worsened Kenya drought impact -report

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 21 Mar 2012 06:49 PM
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NAIROBI, March 21 (AlertNet) - Rampant corruption in food aid worsened the suffering of Kenyans hit by drought last year, Transparency International said on Wednesday, with some politicians sabotaging food distribution and giving it out where it was not needed to win support.

Nearly 4 million Kenyans required food assistance in a "triangle of death" drought that struck 13 million people across the Horn of Africa last year. Most of the Kenyans who suffered were livestock herders living in its arid, marginalised north.

"It is one of the most vile, disgraceful, appalling acts to set aside food for the hungry in one place to benefit your election or your bank account in another place," famous fossil hunter Richard Leakey, chair of Transparency International-Kenya, said at the launch of a report in the capital Nairobi.

Food aid in Kenya is a multi-million dollar business that is highly politicised and vulnerable to corruption.

The report said there was political interference throughout the response process, affecting contracting, recruitment and the manipulation of targeting and distribution processes.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is in charge of Kenya's food aid pipeline, transporting food to districts. It then contracts local partners to transport, store and distribute food.

Leading political figures supported agencies that did not meet WFP and government selection criteria "to ensure usage of certain transportation and warehousing interests," the report said.

 

FAVORITISM, NEPOTISM

"In a number of districts, the Kenya Red Cross was 'selected' by local government officials and politicians as the preferred partner over competitively selected ... partners."

As a result, food aid distribution ground to a halt in five areas, forcing the WFP to step in and distribute food itself.

There were also complaints about favoritism, nepotism and influence-peddling, according to the report, which was based on 109 interviews and focus group discussions with more than 200 participants in the Wajir, Pokot and Turkana regions.

The government had its own "political" food aid system, which ran in parallel to the main WFP pipeline, distributing rations to areas where they were not needed, the report said.

"There is a double language in Kenya: the broad public message is that sustainable programming is most important but at the district level, MPs with a shorter political life want to be seen giving food," one interviewee told TI.

Government-led assessments, which include the United Nations and other NGOs, are carried out twice a year to determine how many people require food aid across the country. This data is used by the WFP to determine food distribution needs.

The report said the government had provided additional food to district commissioners in drought-stricken areas, ignoring the WFP's pipeline.

"The basis on which those allocations were determined is unclear," the report said, adding that monitoring of this system was "almost non-existent".

Last September a district commissioner in West Pokot was arresting for stealing ${esc.dollar}13,000 of maize meant for distribution as food aid, the report said.

Kenya has not gone below having one million people on food assistance in the last 12 years.

(AlertNet is a humanitarian news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation. Visit http://www.trust.org/alertnet) (Editing by Yara Bayoumy)

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