Lobby piles pressure for transparency on Covid funds use

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe speaks at Afya House in Nairobi on December 22, 2020, on the Covid-19 pandemic in Kenya.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

A lobby has asked the government to enhance transparency and accountability in the use of Covid-19 funds.

This is amid concerns about the use of billions of shillings set aside to fight the pandemic, by both the national and county governments, as well as claims of embezzlement.

The Health NGOs Network (Hennet), an umbrella organisation of health civil societies in Kenya, raised the alarm over the scarcity of information on funds disbursed to counties or received by the national government from donors.

A report by Hennet, Africa Centre for Health Systems Research and Management and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) revealed that the government secured over Sh200 billion from the international community, including the World Bank and European Union, for the fight against Covid-19.

In April, as part of Kenya’s Covid-19 Emergency Response Project, the World Bank approved Sh5.4 billion while the allocation to the National Safety Net Programme (NSNP) was increased by Sh8.7 billion, from Sh30.2 billion to 38.8 billion.

Other shares

An additional Sh1.1 billion was allocated to the National Covid-19 Contingency Plan while the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions donated Sh2 billion to the country’s coronavirus emergency fund.

In terms of in-kind contribution, Kenya received Jack Ma’s care package of 100,000 face masks and 20,000 testing kits in March.

Unep, through its Office for Africa, donated assorted products, including personal protective equipment worth Sh3 million and, according to World Vision’s website, the CSO had dispatched PPE and water, sanitation and hygiene (Wash) equipment valued at Sh52 million to various countries by June.

The report further showed that by June, the ministry had received Sh83 billion for the fight against Covid-19, the highest expenditure in a financial year.


However, individuals at the ministry allegedly took advantage of the plight of Kenyans and embezzled the bulk of the funds, a case in point being the scandal at the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa).

The report also fingered a number of counties for being scanty with information regarding use of the money.

For instance, Vihiga County only released information after a demand by MCAs. It showed that the funds had been misappropriated.

It emerged that the county's emergency committee spent Sh10.2 million on precautionary measures and other logistics in the first 51 days of the pandemic, which was first reported in Kenya on March 13.

Over the same period, Kisumu County spent Sh91.8 million in the fight against the pandemic before its first case was confirmed.

What Hennet wants

Hennet wants the government to post all procurement information related to Covid-19 on government portals to enhance transparency and trust in line with constitutional provisions on access to public information.

“The national government should publicly disclose funds disbursed to county governments,” said the organisation’s chief executive, Dr Mercy Onsando.

“County governments should also account for funds that have been channelled towards initiatives and projects in mitigating Covid-19,” Dr Onsando said, adding that information about these projects should be publicly available.

Hennet further called on relevant agencies to quickly investigate scandals around use of Covid-19 funds.

It also wants the investigative agencies to give the public a detailed update on the Kemsa scandal.

“Hennet is concerned that three months into the Kemsa Covid-19 scandal, investigations have not been concluded and those responsible held to account. This is despite President Uhuru’s directive for the investigation to be concluded in 21 days," she said.

She noted that Kemsa has spent billions of shillings on the procurement of supplies yet 97 per cent of the commodities remain in its warehouses, eroding value for money.