Kenya authorities arrest standards bureau head over fertilizer imports

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The authorities have arrested the managing director of the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and other officials on charges they allowed the import of fertilizer that failed KEBS tests, the public prosecutor said.

Investigations by the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) found that the fertilizer imported from Morocco failed to meet KEBS’s standards when tested but it was released to the market instead of being destroyed or returned, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Noordin M. Haji, said in a statement.

“We have established that there is criminal culpability on the part of KEBS officials entrusted with the mandate of monitoring and control of standards,” Haji said, adding that there was “adequate evidence to mount a prosecution.”

“I have given consent to the DCI to immediately cause the arrest of all the suspects,” Haji said.

Charles Ongwae, head of the body responsible for checking standards of goods entering the East African nation, was among KEBS officials named by the DPP and detained on Friday evening.

Ongwae and other officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Kenya is being roiled by a spate of scandals involving bogus tenders and suppliers that the authorities say led to the theft of hundreds of millions of shillings from government bodies by state officials.

President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged to stamp out graft when he was first elected in 2013 but critics say he has been slow to pursue top officials and ministers.

Kenyatta, who was elected for a second term last year, has spoken out recently against graft and urged the judiciary “to ensure fair trials and justice”.

Reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Additional reporting by Maggie Fick; Writing by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Edmund Blair