Pressure mounts on governors over pandemic funds

By Hillary Mageka
Friday, August 7th, 2020
Nominated Senator Sylvia Kasanga. Photo/PD/FILE
In summary

The Senate has asked the Auditor-General to probe cash allocated to counties for the battle against Covid-19 pandemic.

A similar letter has also been addressed to the Controller of Budget, Dr Margaret Nyakang’o, to prepare a special budget review implementation report on the utilisation of funds by counties towards Corona interventions.

 “The report should cover the period from March 13, when the first Corona case was recorded in the country to July 31,” the letter.

The committee, chaired by Nominated Senator Sylvia Kasanga, noted in the letter that some of the funds disbursed to county governments towards prevention and management of  the virus may have been diverted to other areas not related to the pandemic interventions or could have been misapplied or misappropriated.

In April, the Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission (EACC) had warned that it will not hesitate to take action on any county that will misuse or misappropriate funds meant for the Covid-19 mitigation measures.

EACC Chief Executive Officer Twalib Mbarak noted that the anti-graft agency dragnet will not spare public officials who will award tenders to relatives and cronies as well as suppliers who will overprice their goods and supply substandard products.

“This is a message to governors and others involved. We are monitoring how the funds will be spent.

They should not take advantage of procurement under the guise of this emergency to enrich themselves as opposed to the intended beneficiaries because we will get them very easily,” Mbarak said on April 28.

The National Treasury has transferred at least Sh5 billion to a deposit account for counties at Central Bank of Kenya as part of efforts to mitigate the pandemic.

A good portion of the money has come from multilateral donors, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank, which have together extended to Kenya more than Sh200 billion in the last three months.

Recently, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani revealed that the government had by June 30, spent Sh40.3 billion in the fight against the coronavirus disease.

The Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund Board has also netted more than Sh2.8 billion from corporate, foundations, religious institutions multinationals, and Kenyans of goodwill towards supporting the government’s war on the virus.

Inflated amounts 

Of these, Sh237 million will go towards purchasing Personal Protective Equipment for health workers while Sh95 million will go to supporting the mental health of medics.

In May, National Assembly Committee, chaired by Murang’a Women Rep Sabina Chege,  flagged the Ministry of Health for millions of shillings spent in buying tea and snacks and inflated amounts in leasing ambulances in the fight against Covid-19.

In the latest move by the nine-member team previously chaired by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, the lineup  wants the auditor to first establish the total amount of funds received by the 47 county governments were spent specifically  to Corona activities.

Besides, establishing the bank accounts into which the funds from the national government specific to Covid-19 activities were banked.

“Review and establish whether the county governments had approved work plans, procurement  and training plans in place specific to Corona,” the letter.

It adds: “Whether the funds from the National Government specific to the pandemic were spent per approved work plans, procurement plans, and training plans,” the letter. 

Senators have also asked the Auditor to find out whether financial and non-financial reports on funds from the national government specific to the virus were produced every month.

The committee also wants the CoB to establish the reliability of the financial and non-financial reports on funds from the National Government specific to Covid-19 activities.

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