By Derick Ngaira and Christine Akinyi of The Institute for Social Accountability
Covid-19 has been touted as a triple threat. It is a health crisis, a food emergency and an economic catastrophe. However, there is an underlying accountability and corruption crisis in Covid-19 emergency fund management that must be addressed.
Concerns have been raised recently on the misuse of the emergency funds meant to support the fight against Covid-19. The ‘Covid-preneurs’ have reportedly (though media exposés) had a field day – from stealing billions of monies meant to cushion the poor, to waylaying medical equipment from the airport to private warehouses, and going scot-free waiting for another procurement whistle to be blown.
The need to monitor high-level spending with utmost accountability and transparency, participation and oversight, cannot be overemphasised. This will ensure that the loans, gifts, and donations received to support the fight against coronavirus go into helping those that indeed need the support.
Since the first case of the pandemic was reported in March 2020, the government has been a major recipient of funds in the form of concessional loans and grants to fight the ravaging effects of the pandemic. However, information on the precise assistance received to support the fight against Covid-19 and how it has been spent remain scanty.
The government has also remained mum on transparency and accountability measures put in place that would guarantee every shilling received is counted in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.
According to corruption watchdog Transparency International Kenya, the country has received more than Ksh200 billion from national and international partners.
In a record two months, Kenya is reported to have received a total Ksh223 billion Covid-19 war chest from IMF, World Bank, African Development Bank and European Union in form of loans and grants. This begs the question: Where are these billions?
Currently, the future looks bleak for Kenyans. Some counties are not adequately prepared for a surge in Covid-19 positive cases. There are no adequate ICU beds and ventilators. Health workers are downing their tools for fear of their lives because of inadequate and substandard personal protective equipment. On the other hand, livelihoods have been washed under the bridge.
In all this murky situation, profiteers are wishing for the pandemic to exist for eternity to continue reaping where they did not sow.
The recent announcement by the National Treasury to conduct audits on the billions of shillings in taxpayers’ funds and loans from donors such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), meant for the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, is long overdue.
The Auditor-General should speed up conducting a specialised probe into the monies meant to support the fight against the pandemic as ordered by the Senate’s ad hoc committee on Covid-19.
The auditing process must be free from undue coercion and provide Kenyans with much-needed answers on the alleged misappropriation of public funds.
The Ministry of Health is not new to scandals. Taxpayers have for years borne the brunt of corruption through flawed procurement processes coupled with grossly inflated prices.
In 2018, Kenyans are reported to have lost close to Ksh7 billion in the procurement of 37 Computerised Tomography (CT) scanners at an inflated cost of Ksh227 million per unit under the Managed Equipment Service (MES), in a deal between Kenya and Chinese governments.
The new Auditor General is on a delicate balance. She can choose to stamp public confidence entrusted to her by unravelling answers on where the Covid-19 funds were taken to, or submit to the whims of cartels, hide the truth, and lose public trust for the next eight years.
The writers are Communications Officer and Programme Officer respectively at The Institute for Social Accountability