Kenya: Health Ministry Must Rid Itself of Criminals

editorial

A few weeks ago, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe publicly declared that his ministry is infested with lords of corruption and made a commitment to rein in on them. That was not news. A previous Health minister under the regime of former President Moi once declared Afya House, the ministry's headquarters, Mafia House. It seems the cartels have refused to go and instead become more hardened.

In March, billionaire Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, gave donations to Kenya worth billions to fight Covid-19. The donations included 100,000 face masks and 20,000 testing kits. Then, Kenya had recorded just a few cases of Covid-19 but had already done some modelling that predicted the numbers could rise to unmanageable levels.

Now, it transpires that all that aid consignment has been stolen. It never reached the Health ministry and never benefited Kenyans. Ministry officials working in cahoots with some crooks carted away the donations from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. It is incredible but demonstrates the level of rot and impunity at the ministry and in the country.

The entire scandal is puzzling. How can individuals easily walk to JKIA and clear goods brought in for the government and get away without trace? Who are these individuals and their accomplices? What kind of security systems and protocols do we have at the airport that allow such ease of theft? Does it mean the systems are so porous and anything goes?

We demand thorough investigations into this scam. The Directorate of Criminal Investigations has to get on top of this. The suspects must be hounded from their holes and made to face the consequences of their action. Clearly, the scheme is extensive and roped in many individuals including airport, security and customs officials. Not only is this criminal but also sadistic. Kenya, like other countries, is faced with a monumental pandemic. It is cruel when some heartless individuals plot and successfully steal medical items meant to help a country fight the pandemic. If they can steal medical provisions, what else can't they do?

Such actions reinforce negative perceptions about Kenya and undermine its potential to secure further assistance. It signals that Kenya is a hub of corruption and larceny. Worse, the scandal comes at a time when the Health ministry is under the spotlight for several indiscretions among them the pilferage of a Sh1.3 billion World Bank donation that was also earmarked for fighting coronavirus. The frequency of transgressions is horrifying.

DCI George Kinoti must do all he can to arrest these criminals. At the same time, Mr Kagwe has to make good his pledge and rid the ministry of crooks.

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