The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting the country really hard. As of yesterday, Kenya had reported 15,601 positive cases and 263 deaths. Recovered cases stood at 263.
Once again, the pandemic has exposed some weaknesses in our government system. Weaknesses we expected the devolved government would fix.
When the current Kenyan constitution was promulgated on 27 August 2010, Kenyans had so much hope in the new constitution. The devolved government was one of the major components of the new constitution. Services were going to be directly offered to the common mwananchi right in the counties and overdependence on the national government was going to be a thing of the past.
This was actually one of the reasons why most Kenyans overwhelmingly voted for the constitution. By adopting a devolved system of government, public services were going to be directly and easily accessible to the people. The objects of devolution as provided for in Articles 174 and 175 of the Constitution are about promotion of democracy and accountability in the exercise of power, fostering national unity by recognizing diversity, enhancing people’s self-governance, enabling communities manage their own affairs, protecting and promoting interests and rights of minorities and the marginalized and ensuring equitable sharing of resources. This is all we wanted? 10 years, are we really enjoying these benefits?
When it comes to healthcare, there are so many things to be talked about, from the violation of human rights, corruption, negligence, malpractice, to mention just a few. In this opinion piece I will focus on health care and corruption. This is something we cannot avoid talking about especially in the middle of this pandemic.
Healthcare is a devolved function according to the constitution. Devolution of health services meant that county governments will now be entrusted with all healthcare-related functions. The national government, on the other hand, was to be responsible for health policy and national referral facilities such as Kenyatta National Hospital and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital.
In the last few years, a number of counties have however been reporting serious health crises. Most of these hospitals have been grappling with congestion, broken-down equipment and an acute shortage of drugs.
In Kirinyaga county for example, when the current Governor Anne Waiguru took over the county leadership in 2017, health reforms was one of her top priorities. Same case with all the other governors. Unfortunately, most of them seem to be doing little to salvage the situation.
This mess was further revealed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The council of governors said last month the counties only have 6,898 isolation beds ready. This was against the 30,500 target set as a prerequisite for lifting the virus’ containment measures that had been put in place by the government.
Corruption is one of the subjects that we can really not run away from as a country. In fact one of the reasons we are going through the healthcare crisis is because of corruption.
In fact, at the moment we have cases of what Citizen Tv journalist Wahiga Mwaura called a ‘’corruption pandemic’’. Money set aside for the fight against the coronavirus – some of which has been donated by international financial institutions like the World Bank is being embezzled, therefore not fulfilling the need for which it was allocated for.
The Kenyan health system is being overwhelmed by the corona crisis both at national and county levels. Ironic because healthcare is one of the 4 agendas that the President promised to fulfil during his tenure. Is our country incapable of handling the crisis? No. No, because the resources to affordable and good healthcare are available but are being mismanaged.
Some governors and county officials have been implicated in serious corruption scandals within the counties. In Nairobi county, for example, flashy governor Mike Sonko and 16 others are facing 19 charges of corruption, abuse of office and irregular payments that saw the county lose Ksh.357 million. Kirinyaga County’s Anne Waiguru who was also implicated in the famous NYS scandal is also being accused of irregularly awarding an Sh50 million tender and payment of Sh10.6 million travel allowance.
Samburu’s Moses Kasaine Lenolkulal has also been linked to a Sh.84.7 million fuel-supply scandal in which Oryx Service Station was given a tender to supply the county government against the law. The anti-graft agency believes the station is owned by the governor and a close associate. In Kiambu County, Governor Ferdinand Waititu alongside his wife and daughter are being investigated over the embezzlement of Ksh. 588 million from county coffers, money believed to have been siphoned through irregular procurement for the upgrading of several roads in Kiambu County.
The list goes on and on presenting a clear picture of the misses currently being experienced in the counties.
Devolution is Kenya’s biggest gift since 1963. Of course, we will all agree that since county governments came into existence in 2013, we have witnessed a monumental shift in Kenya’s economic development approach. This growth is, however, being slowed by corruption and selfish interests from the same leaders we elected.
Currently, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) conversation is all over, with most Kenyans still wondering how it’s going to be of benefit to the country. All Kenyans know we need change, bold change. This can only be achieved if all of us, especially young people stand out for this change.