Kenya: Push for State to Explain Spending of Covid-19 Funds Gains Steam

13 August 2020

The demand for accountability in the use of billions of shillings allocated for Covid-19 interventions continues to gather momentum with the Commission on Administrative Justice (CAJ) and three former senators calling on the relevant government institutions to make full disclosure on the kitty.

Former senators Johnson Muthama, Dr Boni Khalwale and Mr Hassan Omar have particularly called on development partners to freeze funding to the kitty until the government explains how it is spending the money.

The calls by CAJ and the former senators come as a parliamentary committee directed Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu to undertake a special audit into the expenditure of the billions of shillings allocated to the national and county governments for the pandemic's interventions.

CAJ, also known as the office of the Ombudsman, said that it is wrong for responsible institutions to misuse funds aimed at dealing with the pandemic and then failing to provide information on the amounts of money received from government loans or grants and resultant expenditures.

Breach of trust

"The commission has noted with concern where public officers have been quoted declaring that they would not make disclosures on expenditure of Covid-19 funds. This is a blatant breach of the trust and erodes public confidence in the integrity of the public office," Ms Florence Kajuju, the chairperson of CAJ said.

As Ms Kajuju spoke, the former senators led by Mr Muthama urged the international community and other donors to cut funding, arguing that the funds are not serving the intended purpose.

Mr Muthama noted that their agitation is not meant to punish Kenyans, claiming that the funds advanced to the country to help in the fight against the disease had not been directed to the intended use as the money has been stashed in offshore private accounts.

"This is the money that was intended to cushion Kenyans against this disease. But it has been stolen and stashed in overseas accounts," said Mr Muthama even as the disease continues to decimate the global population and its economy.

The former Machakos senator claimed that in order to conceal the theft, the government has now resorted to confusing Kenyans with the 2022 succession politics.

Diverting attention

"They are now diverting the attention of Kenyans from the theft of Covid-19 funds to the politics of 2022. But what we are saying is, let the government make full disclosure on how the funds were used before soliciting the same from donors," he added.

Kenya has so far secured over Sh223 billion for its Covid-19 war chest from the international community.

This includes Sh78.3 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Sh108 billion from the World Bank both as budgetary support and extra resources to help fight the deadly viral infection.

IMF had, before this financing, extended Sh6.8 billion support to the Health ministry for preparations and response while the African Development Bank gave Sh22.5 billion as a concessional loan with the European Union topping with Sh7.5 billion in form of grants.

Dr Khalwale claimed that the individuals connected to senior government and political figures have been raking in millions of shillings by selling donations earmarked for the pandemic interventions to the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa).

Change funding model

"The international community should readjust the model of funding to help fight this disease. Because of the theft, we are urging donors to channel their funding through community-based organisations, faith-based organisations and other non-governmental organisations," Dr Khalwale said.

Mr Omar demanded that individuals at the Ministry of Health and Kemsa suspected of stealing the funds step aside for investigations to be done.

"What is happening is wanton and reckless theft of funds meant to help the country. Unless people are arrested and disclosures made, the donor community should suspend Covid-19 funding. We are only calling for accountability," Mr Omar said.

The Senate ad hoc committee on Covid-19, in directing the Auditor-General to do a special audit, noted that the billions of shillings meant to deal with the disease may have been diverted to other areas not related to the pandemic, misapplied or misappropriated.

The committee chaired by nominated Senator Sylvia Kasanga also wants the Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang'o to furnish it with a special budget review implementation report on the use of the funds meant for Covid-19 interventions by the 47 counties.

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