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Health sector ailing because of corruption, greed

By Paul Amina
Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020
Kenya's health cabinet secretary Mutahi Kagwe inspects the latest medical equipment at Kenyatta University in Nairobi. Photo/File
In summary

Without money in the pocket, the sick, some suffering from curable ailments stare at death in Kenya where medical supplies for public health facilities are stolen and diverted to private clinics where the fees are out of reach for the needy.

Covid -19 patients are the latest victims of plunder of donation for fighting the pandemic that has claimed hundreds and infected thousands since March 2020.

Health of the vulnerable does not matter to merchants of death at Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) whose officials are under parliamentary probe and investigation. 

Disturbed by the plunder is the Cabinet Secretary, Mutahi Kagwe, who has hinted at a powerful cartel in his office which like other public offices bear a standard display of signboards reading : this is a corruption free zone.

It has since emerged that Kemsa is a cash cow for death merchants who enjoy tribal protection.

Mega scandals are often politicised and labeled as witch-hunt by tribal chauvinists. For fear of losing votes, political party leaders have defended suspects.

This write up would be incomplete without jogging the memory of readers on genesis of ailment of Health ministry inflicted years gone by.

Forty seven years ago, a senior official in charge of Central Medical Stores renamed Kemsa ordered drugs to last 25 years, self life of the medicines notwithstanding. 

Then-deputy Secretary in the ministry, Zacharia Shimechero, was tried and jailed for five years for fraud as exclusively published in a local daily.

Unlike today, his trial  did not elicit street protests by hired goons in a country where honesty is demonised and corruption gloried.

The expose earned the writer, the inaugural Kenneth Bolton Award, named after the Editor of the East African Standard.

That was the perhaps the last time a senior public servant was convicted and imprisoned for impropriety. 

Heroes and heroines are the public coffer looters christened philanthropist and development conscious.

Even church leaders invite such characters to preside over fundraising activities.

The country leadership cannot escape blame for escalation of the vice. Parliament endorsed the Duncan Ndegwa Commission report that opened corruption floodgates for public coffer looters , among whom are state employees. 

The Ndegwa report relaxed age old Public Service Regulations that banned civil servants from engaging in business more so with the employer.

The foregoing being the norm, public service health personnel like Shimechero did not want to be left behind in the race to quick riches .

Medics steal drugs, divert patients to their clinics and open pharmacies and chemists.

Don’t be surprised if you are turned away from a hospital for lack medicine. 

Unless the appetite for wealth is tamed sooner rather than later in the health sector, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s dream legacy, Universal Health Coverage could be just another dream reminiscent of futile war on three national enemies: disease, poverty and ignorance waged by the nation’s founding fathers. 

If the health sector fails the health test, which sector will pass the integrity test? None.

We have to make do with what we have until our saviour returns for the final judgement. [email protected]

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