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Civil society piles pressure over Afya House scandals

By Eric Wainaina
Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020
Health ministry headquarters in Nairobi. Photo/PD/FILE
In summary

Eric Wainaina @EWainaina

The civil society has put investigative agencies on the spot over failure to probe several scandals, involving billions of shillings at the Ministry of Health.

At least 40 civil society groups are now demanding that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) institute a probe into the myriad scandals that have rocked Afya House since 2013.

The groups maintain that upto Sh81 billion may have been lost in the scandals.

They include the recent Covid-19 fund theft claims at the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa), the  Sh63 billion Managed Equipment Services (MES) and the manipulation of systems to facilitate theft of donor funds channeled to the ministry to combat various diseases.

Negatively impacts

The groups include Transparency International, Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO), International Commission of Jurists Kenya and the Nelson Mandela TB-HIV Resource Centre.

“For a long time, the health sector has seen serious corruption which negatively impacts on the realisation of the right to health. We are concerned that such corruption is robbing the country of critical funds, meant to ensure citizens access quality health services, vaccines for children, especially drugs for the vulnerable and marginalised,” reads the petition dated September 18, 2020.

The 14-page letter is addressed to Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, EACC boss Twalib Mbarak, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji, Auditor General Nancy Gathungu and Council of Governors (CoG)chairman Wycliffe Oparanya, Parliament, the World Health Organisation and Ombudsman.

Twalib could not be reached for comment on the subject yesterday while Oparanya termed the concerns “legitimate” and urged the national government to get to the root of scandals at Afya House.

Vicious cartel

“The concerns raised by the organisations are legitimate since we have previously raised them with the relevant ministry.

Though health is a devolved matter, some cartels at the ministry have continued to hold onto some mandates, that ought to be handled by the counties in their determination to steal,” Oparanya told the People Daily.

Oparanya said so far, estimates conducted by the CoG indicate that the national government has lost in excess of Sh20 billion in scandals at Afya House since 2013.

“All those involved should be brought to book in order to regain public confidence in the ministry,” said Oparanya.

While the ministry and county governments have been asked by the petitioners to urgently seal loopholes to ensure accountability, EACC and DPP have been asked to  within one month, provide details of all investigations undertaken on corruption in the health sector and action taken.

The groups singled out the MES scandal, the possible loss of Sh10 billion in the National Health Insurance Fund  scandal in 2019, the manipulation of IFMIS at the ministry leading to loss of Sh5 billion in 2015 and 2016, the theft of Sh160 million Gavi cash meant for vaccines in 2016, as well as issues of misappropriation flagged by the Auditor General.

“In almost all of these cases, no conclusive investigations have been reached and no prosecution has been undertaken,” the groups noted.

Kagwe has previously lamented the existence of a vicious cartel at Afya House.

Trans Nzoia Senator Michael Mbito who is the chair of the Senate Health Committee yesterday said the senators, were conducting investigations into some of the scandals including the MES one.

“I have not seen the petition but some of the cases mentioned are work in progress,” he told the People Daily.

The petition comes at a time when Haji is reviewing files arising from investigations into the Kemsa scandal forwarded to him by the EACC.

Senators have also recommended that EACC probes circumstances surrounding the awarding and implementation of MES contracts and have the public officers found culpable of irregularities and illegalities, prosecuted and be barred from accessing office.