NAIROBI (Reuters) - A Kenyan judge sentenced a senior education official to three years in jail for stealing funds and false accounting, Kenya's main anti-corruption body said on Tuesday in what was a minor victory against endemic corruption in the East African nation.
However the government rejected calls for the education minister and his permanent secretary to resign over the disappearance of 4.2 billion Kenyan shillings ($51 million) - equivalent to 1 percent of the 2005-2009 education budget.
Last year, Britain - Kenya's biggest bilateral lender - cut aid given to the government to provide free primary education after the money's disappearance.
A high-level observer panel report also criticized Kenyan politicians for failing to decisively tackle graft on Tuesday.
The African Union Panel of Eminent African Personalities said in a statement that the fight against corruption had not registered much success.
"(The) lack of political commitment to deal with politically powerful individuals involved in corruption was a major challenge to the fight against impunity," it said.
In court, Kenya's Ethics and anti-Corruption Commission said Enos Magwa, who served as a deputy director for education was convicted of stealing 1.3 million shillings and false accounting of 1.9 million shillings in 2008.
Magwa was sentenced to three years in jail and fined 3.6 million shillings. Failure to pay the fine could result in an additional two years in prison, the commission said.
Kenya's education sector has been wracked by allegations of graft for years. In 2006, the World Bank approved a delayed $80 million loan to support the education sector, following stepped-up measures to guard against corruption and ensure resources were properly used.
A 2010 report by Transparency International-Kenya showed that 97 percent of Kenyans viewed corruption as a major vice in the country, east Africa's largest economy. ($1 = 82.7500 Kenyan shillings)
(Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Ben Harding)