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25 lobby groups petition government over mishandled Covid-19 funds

Health & Science - By Japheth Ogila | August 24th 2020 at 01:20:04 GMT +0300

Kenya received the donation from the Chinese billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma. They included 100,000 masks, 20,000 test kits and 1,000 protective gear which landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on March 24, 2020, in Nairobi. The consignment was later riddled with conspiracy as reports emerged that part of it could not be accounted for. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

A total of 25 lobby groups have teamed up to petition the government to put up measures that would guarantee integrity, transparency and accountability in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.

This is in response to the recent reports that funds and Personal Protective Equipment channelled to the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) were mishandled and could not be fully accounted for.

The groups, comprising professionals from trade unions, non-governmental organizations and associations want the government to act promptly and ensure that the country is not priced out in the fight against the virus.

“We have noted with great concern, gaps in transparency and accountability by government agencies charged with managing Covid-19 resources. These loopholes have led to the overpricing of commodities, purchase of substandard Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), embezzlement of commodities including donated PPEs, failure of the PPE’s to reach those who need it the most including healthcare workers on the frontline of fighting Covid-19, and misappropriation of public funds meant to procure protective gear…”

They want the Executive to strictly follow the articles 10 and 201 of the Constitution on governance and public finance to inject public participation for transparency.

Lobby groups

The lobby groups include: Amnesty International Kenya, Association of Professional Societies in East Africa (APSEA), Civil Society Reference Group (CSRG), Constitution and Reform Education Consortium (CRECO), County Governance Watch, Global Compact Network Kenya, Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA Kenya), Katiba Institute, Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), Kenya Medical Association (KMA), Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), Kenya Union of Clinical Officers, Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ Kenya), Mzalendo Trust, National Association of Clinical Officer Anaesthetists- Kenya (NACOA-K), National Nurses Association of Kenya, National Taxpayers Association (NTA), NEPOTEHC, Pamoja TB group, Stop TB Partnership-Kenya, The Institute for Social Accountability (TISA), The Kenya Legal & Ethical Issues Network On HIV & AIDS (KELIN) , Transparency International Kenya, White Ribbon Alliance and Wote Youth Development Projects.

In the press statement, the groups have tabled 20 demands to the government in addressing the Covid-19 preparedness. For instance, they want the Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe to give a comprehensive report on the Covid-19 facilities, the occupancy and number of equipment functional equipment they have. They also want a report on the health workers recruited and the vacancies filled so far as well as the occupational safety and the number of frontline workers affected.

List of demands

To ensure transparent use of the Covid-19 funds and other resources, the lobby groups have suggested that: “All government agencies must, as a matter of right to information, proactively publish the names of companies and their beneficial owners, and individuals awarded any contracts for Covid-19 related commodities or services and the contract amounts, at national and county levels on the Public Procurement Information Portal.”

“The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority must publish a market price index of all essential drugs and commodities required for the management and response to Covid-19 to guide procuring entities on price ceilings and provide safeguards against the inflation of commodity prices.”

They have also urged the Cabinet Secretary of National Treasury to ‘publish detailed expenditure information on all funds advanced for the Covid-19 response efforts through donations, donor grants, loans, salary cuts for civil servants, reallocation of budgets and other sources by all recipient entities including the national and county governments, and the Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund Board.’

They called on other the other government agencies such as the Office of the Auditor General, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the investigative agencies to probe the scandals and bring those found culpable to book. Besides these is the Asset Recovery Authority which they said could help in repossessing looted public money. According to the lobby groups, President Uhuru Kenyatta could resort to the National Coordination Committee on the Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic (NCCRCP) to instil anti-corruption measures in handling the resources.

The Kemsa theft claims have provided a platform for verbal exchange for the political elite, with politicians allied to Deputy President William Ruto accusing ODM of helping to cover up the incident.

ODM through its secretary-general Edwin Sifuna termed Kemsa scam as sensationalised and unverified and blamed the media for the reports.

This comes as the nose seems to be tightening on the neck of suspended Kemsa CEO Jonah Manjari who is to face the Senate Committee today to explain the allegations bedevilling the agency, after failing to attend an earlier meeting citing sickness.

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