Lobby demands accountability of virus funds

The Government has been urged to enhance transparency and accountability in the utilisation of Covid-19 funds across all the 47 counties.

The Health Non-Governmental Organisations Network (HENNET), a health lobby group, is concerned that despite the National Government releasing billions to the counties, information on expenditure of the funds as well as other resources generated by the counties has not been provided to the public as required by law.

For instance, the lobby claims that details still remain scanty on the Sh5 billion released in June  by the national government to all the counties with the aim of strengthening the level of readiness of health facilities.

“The government should post all procurement information related to Covid-19 on government portals to enhance transparency and trust in line with the constitutional provisions on access to public information,” said HENNET through a statement released on Tuesday.

HENNET noted that in some instances, however, revelations of details on expenditure when information is provided upon demand by the public, have led to protests as a result of what the public considers glaring misappropriation or embezzlement of resources.

In Vihiga County for instance, information relating to expenditure on Covid-19 was only released after a demand by MCAs, but the information provided showed that the funds had been misappropriated.

This is after it emerged that the Vihiga County emergency committee spent Sh10.2 million on precautionary measures and other logistics in the first 51 days of the fight against the pandemic. This included Sh655,000 on lunches and another Sh685,000 on allowances paid to members of the rapid response teams.

Over the same period, Kisumu County had spent Sh91.8 million on the fight against the pandemic despite there being no detected case within the County by the time this money was spent.

“For better accountability in the expenditure of Covid-19 funds at the County, stakeholders have called upon the National government to publicly disclose funds disbursed to county governments towards Covid-19 mitigation or support,” read the statement in part.

“In the same breadth and strength, the county governments should also account for the funds that have been channelled towards initiatives and projects in mitigating Covid-19, and that the financial information regarding these projects is published and made widely available,” it added.

The lobby further brought to the fore that the Ministry of Health (MOH) received a record Sh83 billion from the treasury by June 2020, with much of the money going towards the fight against novel corona virus.

Moreover, approximately Sh30 billion was used for buying testing kits, furnishing intensive care units with more beds, or repairing hospitals.

Towards the end of the financial year, the MOH, in a bid to curb the spread of the virus spent another Sh10 billion, with the bulk of the money being used to purchase protective equipment for health workers, testing kits, setting up and running quarantine facilities, and treating those infected.

HENNET is, however, concerned that that unscrupulous individuals at the ministry of health took advantage of the plight of Kenyans and embezzled funds meant for the fight against Covid-19. Case and point is the KEMSA covid-19 funds scandal

It is now calling on the multi-agency team of EACC, DCI and the DPP to hastily conclude scandals revolving around the expenditure of Covid-19 funds.

It further wants the investigative agencies to explain to Kenyans the progress made in the KEMSA covid-19 funds scandal especially after the President directed that investigations be concluded in 21 days.

“Billions of public funds were stated to have been lost but investigations have never been concluded and those responsible have not been held to account. We call upon the authorities to move with speed and conclude this scandal,” further read the statement.