Raila defends ODM, says those shouting want to cover up graft

ODM leader Raila Odinga with Secretary General Edwin Sifuna at the party headquarters on August 13. [David Njaaga, Standard]

ODM leader Raila Odinga dug in on his position on Covid-19 cash spending, saying his proposal for a professional audit remained the best bet to handle the matter.

In a statement against the backdrop of criticism against the party position, Raila said he was not in any way condoning corruption through his proposal for a professional audit.

On Saturday, ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna blamed sensationalised media reporting, claiming it was clouding issues.

He called for patience so that the Auditor General can investigate the alleged corruption at the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa).

It is his statement that drew ire and condemnation from political, medical and religious leaders. However, yesterday, Raila sought to defend his party, saying its record on fighting corruption speaks for itself.

“The ODM’s record of commitment to fighting corruption and safeguarding public resources is well documented. The party never did and never will tolerate corruption in all its manifestations, no matter who is involved,” Raila said in a statement to the media.

He said the party’s position on the allegations of corruption in Covid-19 related resources is that the government should conduct a thorough and urgent audit of all the funds.

“This audit should target all funds put at the disposal of various State agencies, departments and ministries to fight the pandemic with a view to establishing the facts on the usage of such resources,” Raila said.

He said his party has always advocated this systematic approach to fighting corruption.

“In the Grand Coalition Government, the party successfully pushed for the systematic audit of the sale of Grand Regency Hotel and attendant consequences,” Raila said.

He added that ODM at the time also pushed for the audit of Anglo Leasing scandal by Kroll and Associates, leading to appropriate legal action on culprits.

“When the maize scandal erupted, ODM pushed for the appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers to audit the matter, leading to appropriate action against culprits. A special audit also led to convictions in the Sh283 million Nairobi cemetery scam,” Raila said.

The opposition leader said the approach has worked well in the recent past, and in the case of Arror and Kimwarer dams, the truth was established when the Auditor-General conducted a special audit of the Sh60 billion dams whose procurement and financing had caused public outrage.

Arrests and suspensions

“Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors around the world were allowed to work with local investigators to assist with financial analysis, tracing funds and investigating money laundering,” Raila said, adding that this led to a solid case that resulted in arrests and suspensions.

He said the truth through special audit of Arror and Kimwarer dams came out after a spirited effort by politicians to mislead the country at many press conferences and public rallies that no money had been lost.

“A similar approach worked with regard to the National Youth Service (NYS) scam wherein 2016, the office of the Auditor General was able to establish that Kenyan taxpayers lost Sh1.9 billion in the scandal and proceeded to identify the principal beneficiaries of the theft. On the basis of that audit, suspects were arraigned in court,” Raila said.

The ODM leader said as matters stand now, none of the people taking to the podium or social media to condemn theft of funds has any evidence.

“The so-called condemnations of theft could well be part of a cover-up,” Raila said, adding that the experience in this country is that the best way to bungle and cover up corruption investigations is to have many different voices, each with its own version of the truth.

He said ODM will not defend anyone, including members or relatives and friends of its officials, found to have benefited from funds and other resources meant to fight the pandemic.

Raila spoke yesterday as civil society groups and trade unions said they were concerned about gaps in transparency and accountability by government agencies charged with managing Covid-19 resources.

Speaking in Nairobi, the civil society and non-governmental organisations, private sector, professional bodies and trade unions said the loopholes have led to the overpricing of commodities, purchase of substandard Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and embezzlement of commodities, including donated PPEs.

More accountability

The organisations said the loopholes have also led to the failure of the PPEs to reach those who need it the most, including healthcare workers on the frontline in fighting Covid-19, and misappropriation of public funds meant to procure PPEs.

The 25 groups demanded that Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe urgently provides a full report on counties’ preparedness to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of availability of functional bed capacity, oxygen supplies, PPEs and medical professionals to provide health services to the public. “Kagwe should also provide a report on the number of medical practitioners recruited and deployed to the workstations as advertised using the funds provided by the World Bank,” the groups said.

They also want Kagwe to provide a report on what the government has done to assess and address the occupational health and safety of medical practitioners.

The groups called on Kagwe to provide full disclosure on the distribution of PPEs acquired by the government, whether purchased or donated, including details on the sources and recipients.

They asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to urgently address the country on the allegations of corruption and announce transparency and accountability measures to be undertaken to safeguard public resources and bring those implicated to account.

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