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Get rid of graft in healthcare – it reverses gains

By Yvonne Kageha | September 12th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

During a global health crisis, the proper and effective functioning of all institutions related to healthcare is absolutely essential.

Institutions have to work in tandem to make sure the best possible care is provided. If there isn't good co-ordination, or if there are dubious activities, it could be life threatening. 

Moreover, inefficiency in bureaucratic systems leaves space for corrupt people to take advantage. Now more than ever, it is important that best practices are put in place in the healthcare system. Recent reports indicting the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) over questionable procurement deals should worry everyone who cares about the economic health of the country. Even before Covid-19 broke out in Kenya in March, the agency was under investigation for irregular purchases of drugs and medical provisions. 

In some cases, reportedly more stock than needed was bought, which ended up expiring and causing huge losses to taxpayers.

Questions have already arisen in several counties as to why the prices of medical equipment seem so inflated. Whether this is corruption or sheer incompetence is a question for the authorities. 

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Most recently, protective equipment was bought for those in the frontlines of the Covid-19 fight. But the processes, costs and demands of the equipment are in question. It came to light that the process for procuring a tender to supply government agencies was flawed. Some of the equipment was allegedly bought even when the government had adequate stocks. 

This means that someone or a group of people were likely working in cahoots to take advantage of the system and the pandemic to turn a profit. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has launched an investigation.

The truth has to come out. Failure to nail the culprits will cast Kenya in bad light. We risk losing the confidence of the donor community. Those found guilty should be prosecuted to the highest extent of the law. Kenya has bled from corruption for far too long. It has essentially been a part of both our social fabric and our public policy since Kenya became independent.

There were times when people were too terrified to speak up about it. Those who raised the red flag about graft were either punished, silenced, exiled or worse. And so the corruption continued, even in the government’s highest echelons. Most of the scandals in our nation’s history fail even to surprise us because corruption has become such an accepted part of life. 

The graft situation in Kenya is unhealthy. It is detrimental to our economic growth and our ability to become a middle-income country in the next decade - one of the fundamental objectives set out by the Vision 2030 initiative. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta has been firm in his anti-corruption campaign. We might be hearing more about corruption. But it should not be because it is more rife. It should be due to the fact that the fight is being won and those in government are doing what is best for the country . 

Let’s abhor corruption. The EACC was initiated with a singular goal to put an end to graft, corruption and financial crimes. 

It deserves Kenyans’ support. It is embarrassing that year after year, Kenya’s is ranked high on Transparency International’s most corrupt countries index. International allies cannot conduct business or trust us if goodwill is lacking domestically.

- The writer is a communications practitioner

EACC Health Ministry Corruption
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