Nairobi: Kenyan authorities have arrested the head of the National Youth Service as part of an investigation into a theft of nearly $100 million, media reported said on Monday, and the head of criminal investigations said 17 people were in custody.
Kenya's chief prosecutor said prosecution would begin immediately of all the suspects named in an investigation by the Director of Criminal Investigation, though those names have not been made public yet.
Privately owned Citizen Television and K24 TV reported the youth agency's director, Richard Ndubai, had been arrested, along with a number of officials. The Director of Criminal Investigations said in a text message 17 people were in custody.
Citizen TV reported that a top official at the ministry of public service, youth and gender services, Lillian Mbogo-Omollo, had surrendered to the police in the company of her lawyers.
Kenyan media have said 10 billion shillings ($99 million) had been stolen through fictitious invoices and multiple payments on one supplier invoice at the youth service.
Reuters could not contact Ndubai, who is in custody, for comment, and was unable to immediately contact his lawyer.
Despite President Uhuru Kenyatta's pledges to stamp out graft when he was first elected in 2013, critics say he has been slow to pursue top officials. Only big-name convictions will break what they call a culture of impunity, they say.
The reports have dismayed many Kenyans, particularly as they follow a 2015 scandal at the agency, which aims to equip Kenya's young people with key skills and help create jobs.
Last week, investigators summoned more than 40 people, including Ndubai, for questioning over the lost funds.
The Director of Public Prosecution said it had grounds to start court proceedings against all of them.
"The DPP has independently reviewed all the Inquiries Files related to the ongoing Investigations at #NYS and has directed prosecution commences immediately against all the named suspects," the office said on Twitter.
The director of public prosecutor asked Reuters to call later for comment.
Kenyatta has blamed the slow progress in tackling corruption on the lethargy of some government agencies charged with rooting out graft.
In 2016, the then-head of Kenya's anti-graft agency said Kenya was losing a third of its state budget - the equivalent of about $6 billion - to corruption every year.
While the finance ministry disputed the losses were that large, blaming instead poor paperwork, Kenyatta acknowledged then that corruption had reached levels that threatened national security.