Corruption and Covid-19: Our leaders should be held accountable

In our previous article, we highlighted how the Covid-19 pandemic has hit Kenya hard. As of today, the country has reported more than 36,000 cases. The positive thing is that these numbers are now reducing and the number of recoveries now stands at 23,364.

And just as we said in the previous article, this pandemic has exposed some weaknesses in our government system. Weaknesses we expected the devolved government and even the national government would fix – corruption.

There has been so much outrage from Kenyans following allegations of corruption in the procurement of protective gear by the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa), which buys drugs for all public health facilities in the country. The allegations were first revealed by NTV and exposed how billions of funds allocated for Covid-19 went into peoples pockets. The funds included loans and grants from global institutions such as the World Bank and the Monetary Fund (IMF) to support the country’s efforts to combat the virus.

The report also revealed how a large consignment of donations including masks and ventilators from Chinese billionaire Jack Ma went missing when they arrived in the country. Some top officials are said to have sold part of this consignment to neighbouring countries like Tanzania. 

This massive theft of money meant to help Kenyans at a time when the economy is doing badly just exposes how corrupt and our government and local leaders are. Remember Kenya has so far secured 223 billion Kenyan shillings from the international community to tackle the novel infection, however, the alleged theft has led to shortages of finances and materials in various hospitals across the nation. Doctors in some counties have even threatened to go on strike because of not being paid. 

After these corruption allegations, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the health ministry to publish details of all purchases made during the coronavirus. The directive applies particularly to tenders issued by Kemsa. The president instructed the anti-corruption commission to expedite its investigation into the Kemsa scandal and gave the health ministry had 30 days to develop a “transparent” system so that KEMSA’s procurement processes could be published online, nothing has happened so far. 

Leadership and accountability

It’s time for Kenyans to start holding our leaders accountable for the problems we are going through as a country. Most of the people involved in the Kemsa scandal, the report revealed are actually senators and other leaders in the political class although names were not revealed. 

The president also needs to stand up and exercise his authority as the president of the Republic of Kenya. 

Mere statements and threats are not going to help the fight against corruption. 

The National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has ordered a forensic audit on funds allocated for the fight against Covid-19. PAC directed the Auditor-General Nancy Gathugu to conduct the audit covering the expenditure period between March 13 when the first case was reported in the country and July 31.

Kemsa CEO Jonah Manjari has since been suspended alongside directors Eliud Muriithi (Commercial) and Charles Jume (Procurement) following these corruption allegations. This is however not enough, the ministry of health needs to explain how Covid-19 funds were used and health CS Mutahi Kagwe also needs to stand up and be open with Kenyans about this. 

We cannot have doctors or frontline workers working unprotected, without pay and some even falling ill and dying because their government failed to protect them, this is unacceptable. 

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