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Police disperse activists protesting claims of theft of COVID-19 pandemic funds

NAIROBI
By Cyrus Ombati | August 21st 2020
Human rights activists address a press conference at Uhuru Park in Nairobi on Friday, August 21, 2020. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Police used teargas canisters to disperse a group of activists who were protesting alleged theft of Covid-19 pandemic funds in Nairobi.

he group had Friday morning gathered at Uhuru Park’s Freedom Corner, Nairobi, to start the protest and demand accountability of the funds given out to help in the fight against the disease.

The officers lobbed teargas canisters at the group dispersing them in a split of minutes. The protesters regrouped minutes later and vowed to continue with their protest, saying they were peaceful.
 
Police argued the meeting was illegal and goes against the Ministry of Health guidelines in managing the pandemic.
 
The protesters carried placards with writings condemning alleged theft of the funds. The protesters'slogan was, "arrest Covid-19 thieves”.
 
The group dispersed and left the site as more officers arrived.
Police fire tear gas to disperse activists protesting against the reported Covid-19 billions theft on August 21, 2020. [David Njaaga, Standard]

So far, two key donors have threatened to withdraw funds running into billions of shillings set aside for Kenya following the latest Covid-19 scandal linked to a government agency.

The agencies, including United States Agency for International Development (USAid) and the Global Fund, have written to the government expressing concern over the alleged corruption.
 
The Global Fund and USAid are threatening to withdraw funds that were to support HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria programmes for three years.
 
They expressed concern over Kenya Medical Supplies Authority’s (Kemsa) procurement woes as well as management and implementation of the grants given to the institution.
 
Kemsa is said to be unable to find buyers for the items that were allegedly purchased at inflated prices and now many of them could be about to hit their expiry dates.
 
Sources within the board indicate that the agency is holding a stockpile worth over Sh6 billion.
 
Activist Hussein Khalid (R) confronts police officers at Uhuru Park after their protest march against Covid-19 billions theft was dispersed. [David Njaaga, Standard ]

The agency CEO John Manjari and procurement director Charles Juma are also on suspension over the saga as the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission investigates claims of corruption.

EACC is probing controversial Sh7.7 billion tender for the emergency procurement of Covid-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) that was to be delivered by July 22, 2020.
 
EACC asked the agency board to take action and suspend the officials pending the outcomes of the probe. This was after a preliminary analysis of the probe showed there were irregularities in the issues at hand and there were concerted efforts from within to coverup.
 
“Preliminary investigations have established that several senior officials of KEMSA engaged in irregular procurement of COVID-19 items through issuance of commitment letters to suppliers in excess of the approved budget and at highly inflated,” said a letter from EACC CEO Twalib Mbarak.
 
Mbarak said the commission considering the applicable law, notes the officials’ conduct constitute serious ethical breaches contrary to the integrity and ethical requirements governing the conduct of  State and Public officers as laid out under Chapter Six of the Constitution, the leadership and integrity Act, 2012, the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act 2003 and the Public Officer Ethics Act, 2003.
 
“The preliminary findings of the probe cast serious aspersion on the conduct of the three officials and it is therefore prudent and in the interest of the public that the officers be suspended from Public Service while investigations touching on them are still ongoing,” said part of the letter.
 
He cited the leadership and integrity regulations which allows for a state office be suspended from office pending the investigation and determination of allegations made against them where the suspension is considered necessary.
 
This is because, according to the letter, the suspended officer is likely to conceal, alter, destroy, remove records, documents or evidence, intimidate, threaten or otherwise interfere with witnesses or interfere with investigations in any manner.
 
The letter said the officer under suspension shall be on half pay pending finalization of investigations and determination of the allegations made against him or her.
 
EACC has been asking for documentary evidence around the award of the tender the companies involved including tender advertisement notices, bids submitted by bidders, tender opening minutes and list of all bidders.
 
The commission also wanted copies of the professional opinion on the procurement and contract agreements, having already questioned seven senior officials including Manjari.
 
EACC is concerned that the tender was hurriedly awarded to a private using direct procurement under the cover of emergency needs, despite the fact that they were given three months to supply as opposed to one month.
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