The country has been awash with media reports of alleged misuse of Covid-19 Emergency funds by Health ministry officials, Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa), and other State agencies in collusion with businesspeople.
The reports also allege diversion of the personal protective equipment donated by Chinese businessman and philanthropist Jack Ma.
These reports put into question the conduct of public officers entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the health and lives of Kenyans and protection of frontline healthcare workers.
It is suspected that billions of shillings from State coffers, donations, emergency loans and grants may have gone down the drain. Clearly, the fight against corruption is far from being won.
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The allegations, currently being investigated by Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and Parliament, point at systemic corruption networks that have infiltrated various levels of government.
The funds, had they been prudently used, would have provided much-needed healthcare supplies, equipment and affordable testing and treatment in the fight against Covid-19.
Corruption cartels continue to execute their diabolical schemes with careless abandon. The unending corrupt deals should be condemned and those found culpable ostracised for looting public funds in the guise of the provision of emergency public services.
Time to act is now. This is the time to move from mere lip service, which has occupied public domain for ages, to real action. The government should move with speed and carry out thorough investigations and arraign all those suspected of having been involved directly or indirectly in such schemes.
All necessary measures should be taken, including freezing any assets suspected to have been acquired with ill-gotten funds. Indeed, the Kenyan public wants a shift in the fight against corruption from the ‘lip service mantra’ to real and tangible action.
The government should once and for all undertake serious legal and political reforms to address this cankerous malady. To begin with, we should amend the law and provisions on public finance management, anti-money laundering, leadership, and integrity to strengthen asset recovery mechanism.
This is in addition to many other provisions such as the Public Finance Management Act, 2012 that seek to improve transparency, efficiency and equity in the management of public resources.
State and public officers must always uphold constitutional tenets of prudence and responsibility and those found guilty of corruption should be blacklisted from ever holding public offices.
Additionally, professional bodies should engage their members so that they can provide information that may help shed light on corruption schemes and assist with the investigations. Where necessary, the professional bodies should take stern action against any members found culpable.
Needless to say, all entities responsible for the expenditure of public funds for the Covid-19 emergency or other public needs ought to be fully transparent, accountable and provide regular and timely reports to the public and the Auditor General on how such funds have been utilised.
We encourage the government to quickly enact legislation for the protection of whistle-blowers. Many State and public officers who may want to speak out do not do so due to fear of possible repercussions.
To minimise cases of corruption, both levels of government and the private sector should always employ only qualified accountants and other professionals with a track record of integrity to ensure appropriate safeguards in that these individuals will be answerable to professional bodies disciplinary process if they act unethically.
The country should also consider having a behavioural change programme that ought to be integrated in the school curriculum to provide a formidable platform to inculcate values among the learners in their formative years.
In conclusion, the public and private accountability entities should continue to play their financial and advisory roles to support the government to achieve its development agenda as well as promote and safeguard the interests of voiceless Kenyans.
All public spending units must observe the national values enshrined in the Constitution Article 10 (2) on good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability and the principles of public finance articulated in Article 201 on prudence, responsibility and transparency whenever dealing with public funds, without exception.
Ms Mwaura is the Chairman, Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya