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Covid-19 fund audit unmasks deep rot

By Editorial Team
Friday, August 28th, 2020
Kemsa offices.
In summary

A report by the Controller of Budget showing county governments bought materials meant to protect communities and hospital workers from the Covid-19 at obscenely exorbitant prices should prick our conscience as a nation.

The report reveals counties used billions on fuel, purchase of masks, sanitisers and detergent, food rations, bedding and linen, gumboots, accommodation, allowances and acquisition of Personal Protective Equipment.

It also shows some counties didn’t spend the cash allocated for the fight against the virus even as their governors have been pushing for more funds.

According to the Controller of Budget, the timing of the funds release was too close to the end of the Financial Year 2019/20 and some county governments did not prepare budgets for the utilisation of the Covid-19 grant.

What is more disturbing is the fact that despite huge allocations for purchase of materials such as masks for distribution to citizens especially in rural areas and urban slums, very few people can attest to have benefited from the resources. 

The media is replete with harrowing stories of elderly people from rural areas seeking help to obtain basic protective materials yet counties claim to have spent huge sums of money on them.

A recent survey in Nairobi revealed that only a third of people living in informal settlements were using masks as a measure to mitigate the coronavirus disease.

The survey, conducted by World Customs Organisation, showed across the informal settlements, there were much lower rates of adherence to wearing masks, at 31 per cent.

Already, Health ministry officials are under investigation over alleged misappropriation of Covid-19 billions through the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency. 

Key leaders including President Uhuru Kenyatta have demanded a swift audit and investigations into the use of Covid-19 funds.

The spotlight has been largely on the national government. But it would be noted that county governments have in the past not inspired public confidence in use of funds.  

This would mean the public has nowhere to turn to at a time when the pandemic is ravaging the countryside, leaving death and desperation in its wake.

If proven to have been stolen, the action by county should trigger not only anger but a serious reflection on our value systems as a society.

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