Kenya’s President Mandates Lifestyle Audit for Public Servants

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has intensified his war on graft by announcing that all public servants will undergo a compulsory lifestyle audit to account for their sources of wealth.

This latest announcement follows financial scandals that have rocked the country with revelations that millions of dollars were lost in various government agencies through corrupt deals that involved government officials.

Kenyatta offered himself to be the first leader to undergo the audit that seeks to identify corrupt public officials, saying the lifestyle audits would control the misuse of public funds. He said public servants would be required to explain their sources of wealth with an aim of weeding out those found to have plundered government funds.

“You have to tell us, this is the house you have, this is your salary, how were you able to afford it? This car that you bought, (don’t try to put it under your wife’s name or son’s name, we will still know it is yours), where did you get it? You must explain and I will be the first person to undergo the lifestyle audit,” he said.

Scandals uncovered

In the past month, various corruption scandals involving tenders and suppliers in government agencies have been unearthed. The corruption scandals as revealed have exposed the theft of hundreds of millions of shillings by state officials from several government bodies.

So far, more than 40 government officials, including businesspeople, have been arrested over the recent  scandals.

Kenyatta has continued to express his frustration about the graft, which seems to have spiraled out of control since he came into office in 2013.

“This issue of people stealing what belongs to Kenyans, I swear to God it has to come to an end in Kenya,” Kenyatta said.

Establishing accountability

The president said the lifestyle audit will be key among other measures also put in place by the government to curb the vice.

Earlier in the week, Kenyatta issued an executive order requiring all government entities and publicly owned institutions to publish full details of tenders and awards beginning July 1, 2018.

“For example, if this road is being built, we want to know: Who won the tender for the construction? How much was the tender? Who came in second and third? Why was the first person awarded instead of these two? All these reasons, we need to know. Kenyans need to know so that it is out there, that this company was awarded this tender, belongs to a certain person, these are the directors, these are the shareholders. There will be no more hiding,” he said.

On June 1, Kenyatta ordered that all heads of procurement and accounting units be vetted again. He said the vetting would include subjecting the officers to polygraph tests to determine integrity.

Kenya scored 28 points out of 100 on the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. The Corruption Index in Kenya averaged 22.62 points from 1996 until 2017.

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World Bank: Remittance Flows Rising After Years of Decline

After two consecutive years of decline, remittances, the money migrant workers send home, increased in 2017 according to figures released by the World Bank. Remittances are a significant financial contribution to the well-being of families of migrant workers and to the sustainable development of their countries of origin. The U.N. recognizes their importance every year on June 16, designated International Day of Family Remittances. VOA’s Cristina Caicedo Smit reports on this vital lifeline.

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Theranos CEO: Wunderkind to Federal Indictment

Federal prosecutors have indicted Elizabeth Holmes on criminal fraud charges for allegedly defrauding investors, doctors and the public as the head of the once-heralded blood-testing startup Theranos. Federal prosecutors also brought charges against the company’s former second-in-command.

Holmes, who was once considered a wunderkind of Silicon Valley, and her former Chief Operating Officer Ramesh Balwani, are charged with two counts conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California said late Friday. If convicted, they could face prison sentences that would keep them behind bars for the rest of their lives, and total fines of $2.75 million each.

Technology a fraud

Prosecutors allege that Holmes and Balwani deliberately misled investors, policymakers and the public about the accuracy of Theranos’ blood-testing technologies. Holmes, 34, founded Theranos in Palo Alto, California, in 2003, pitching its technology as a cheaper way to run dozens of blood tests. Once considered the nation’s youngest female billionaire, Holmes said she was inspired to start the company in response to her fear of needles.

But an investigation by The Wall Street Journal two years ago found that Theranos’ technology was a fraud, and that the company was using routine blood-testing equipment for the vast majority of its tests. The story raised concerns about the accuracy of Theranos’ blood testing technology, which put patients at risk of having conditions either misdiagnosed or ignored.

“CEO Elizabeth Holmes and COO Sunny Balwani not only defrauded investors, but also consumers who trusted and relied upon their allegedly-revolutionary blood-testing technology,” Acting U.S. Attorney Alex Tse said in a statement.

SEC charges

The Securities and Exchange Commission brought civil fraud charges against Holmes and Balwani three months ago. Holmes settled with the SEC, agreeing to pay $500,000 in fines and penalties. Balwani, 53, is fighting the charges.

As the charges were announced Friday, Theranos said Holmes would step down as CEO of the company and its general counsel, David Taylor, would become the company’s next CEO. Theranos laid off most of its staff earlier this year and is widely expected to file for bankruptcy. Holmes remains the company’s chairman.

The company did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Friday’s indictments.

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Poll: Ticked at Trump, Canadians Say They’ll Avoid US Goods

Seventy percent of Canadians say they will start looking for ways to avoid buying U.S.-made goods in a threat to ratchet up a trade dispute between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump, an Ipsos Poll showed Friday.

The poll also found a majority of Americans and Canadians are united in support of Trudeau and opposition to Trump in their countries’ standoff over the renegotiation of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Amid the spat, Trump pulled out of a joint communique with six other countries last weekend during a Quebec summit meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized democracies and called Trudeau “very dishonest and weak.”

Trump was reacting to Trudeau’s having called U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs insulting to Canada. Trudeau has said little about the matter since a Trump Twitter assault. 

Despite the tensions, 85 percent of Canadians and 72 percent of Americans said they support being in NAFTA, and 44 percent of respondents in both countries said renegotiation of the deal would be a good thing for their country.

While the poll showed support for a boycott of U.S. goods in Canada, pulling it off could be difficult in a country that reveres U.S. popular culture and consumer goods over all others.

Canada is the largest market for U.S. goods.

Trudeau over Trump

The poll showed 72 percent of Canadians and 57 percent of Americans approved of the way Trudeau had handled the situation, while 14 percent of Canadians and 37 percent of Americans approved of Trump’s behavior.

More than eight in 10 Canadians and seven in 10 Americans worry the situation has damaged bilateral relations.

Canada has vowed to retaliate against U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum with tariffs against a range of U.S. goods, a move supported by 79 percent of Canadians, according to the poll.

By contrast, Americans opposed escalating the situation.

Thirty-one percent of Americans said they favored even stronger tariffs, and 61 percent said other elected U.S. officials should denounce Trump’s statements.

Canadian respondents also signaled approval of the united front their politicians have shown, with 88 percent saying they welcomed the support of politicians from other parties for the Liberal government’s decision to push back on tariffs.

While Canadian consumers appeared ready to boycott U.S. goods, 57 percent of Canadians and 52 percent of Americans said Canada should not overreact to Trump’s comments because it was just political posturing.

The Ipsos Poll of 1,001 Canadians and 1,005 Americans — including 368 Democrats, 305 Republicans and 202 independents — was conducted June 13-14. It has a credibility interval of 3.4 percentage points.

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US Lobsters Are a Target of China’s Threatened Tariffs

A set of retaliatory tariffs released by China on Friday includes a plan to tax American lobster exports, potentially jeopardizing one of the biggest markets for the premium seafood. 

Chinese officials announced the planned lobster tariff along with hundreds of other tariffs amid the country’s escalating trade fight with the United States. China said it wants to place new duties on items such as farm products, autos and seafood starting July 6.

The announcement could have major ramifications for the U.S. seafood industry and for the economy of the state of Maine, which is home to most of the country’s lobster fishery. China’s interest in U.S. lobster has grown exponentially in recent years, and selling to China has become a major focus of the lobster industry.

“Hopefully cooler heads can prevail and we can get a solution,” said Matt Jacobson, executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative. “It’s a year-round customer in China. This isn’t good news at all.”

A Chinese government website on Friday posted a list of seafood products that will be subject to the tariffs, and it included live, fresh and frozen lobster. The website stated that the items would be taxed at 25 percent.

The announcement came in response to President Donald Trump’s own increase in tariffs on Chinese imports in America. The Republican president announced a 25 percent tariff on up to $50 billion worth of Chinese goods on Friday.

The news raised alarms around the Maine lobster industry, as China’s an emerging market for U.S. lobster, which has gained popularity with the growing middle class. Maine lobster was worth more than $430 million at the docks last year, and the industry is a critical piece of the state’s economy, history and heritage.

The U.S. isn’t the only country in the lobster trade. Canada also harvests the same species of lobster and is a major trading partner with China.

“Anything that affects the supply chain is obviously not a great thing,” said Kristan Porter, president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. “The lobstermen obviously are concerned with trade and where they go.”

The value of China’s American lobster imports grew from $108.3 million in 2016 to $142.4 million last year. The country barely imported any American lobster a decade ago.

China and the U.S. are major seafood trading partners beyond just lobster, and the new tariffs would apply to dozens of products that China imports from the U.S., including salmon, tuna and crab. The U.S. imported more than $2.7 billion in Chinese seafood last year, and the U.S. exported more than $1.3 billion to China.

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Apple Nabs Oprah as Top Talent Flocks to Digital Entertainment

Apple Inc on Friday announced a multiyear deal with Oprah Winfrey to create original programming, a coup in the battle for A-list talent and projects in the booming digital entertainment market.

“Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world,” Apple said in a statement.

Apple gave no details of the type of programming that Winfrey would create, the value of the deal, or when it might be released. Winfrey had no immediate comment.

Winfrey, 64, an influential movie and TV producer who also publishes a magazine, is expected to appear on screen, a source familiar with the deal said.

Apple has not said how it plans to distribute its programming, to which it has committed an initial $1 billion. The partnership is the biggest original content deal struck by Apple so far as it aims to compete with Netflix Inc,

Amazon.com Inc and Time Warner Inc’s HBO. Netflix, which has said it will spend up to $8 billion on programming this year, in May struck a multiyear deal with former U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle to produce films, documentaries and other content.

Netflix, the world’s leading streaming entertainment provider, has also lured prolific television producers Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes away from broadcast television.

Amazon said in November it had bought the global television rights to “The Lord of the Rings” and would produce a multi-season series that explores new storylines preceding author J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Earlier this week, Amazon also announced a development deal with

Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman’s production company for movies and television.

For its part, Apple in November ordered two seasons of a dramatic series with Hollywood stars Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, looking at the lives of people working on a morning television show.

Other projects Apple has announced include a remake of Steven Spielberg’s 1980s science fiction anthology series “Amazing Stories,” based on Isaac Asimov’s influential “Foundation” science fiction novels, and a drama from “La La Land” movie director Damian Chazelle.

Under the deal with Winfrey, she will remain chief executive of cable channel OWN, which she launched in 2011 in partnership with Discovery Inc. Winfrey in December extended her contract with OWN through 2025, OWN and Apple said.

Under her contract with OWN, Winfrey can appear on camera on other platforms on a limited basis.

Known in the United States by millions on a first-name basis, Winfrey rose to fame as the host of her own television talk show, using it to build a media empire that spans magazine publishing, movie and television production, cable TV and satellite radio.

Born into poverty, she is one of the world’s wealthiest women and has been nominated for two Academy Awards.

A rousing speech by Winfrey at the Golden Globes awards ceremony in January triggered an online campaign to persuade her to run for U.S. president in 2020.

She dismissed the notion, telling InStyle magazine in an interview, “It’s not something that interests me.”

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