The bigger pandemic

The Ministry of Health in Kenya has released a breakdown of how it spent Ksh 1 Bn ( USD 1Mn). It makes for interesting reading.

  • Ksh 610 Mn to Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) for procurement of laboratory equipment and kits: This funding is sorely needed but it comes at a time of uncertainty. Last week’s demotion of Dr Joel Lutomiah, the lead scientist in charge of Covid-19 research did not help. It was reported that he was demoted based on instructions from Minister Mutahi Kagwe because “he delayed the announcement of daily testing results”. That reason had a strong whiff of cow dung. His colleagues claimed that he was fired because he has stood firm in demanding funding so that his team can carry out their tasks properly. Specifically, his colleagues said Dr Lutomiah was in trouble largely because he championed the rights of the institution’s workers in regards to protective gear. Was this funding released before or after? It is not uncommon in Kenya for a principled person to be removed from his post so that he can be replaced with more pliable person, in preparation for looting in future.
  • Ksh 70 Mn for advertising: Without revealing the length of the advertising contracts signed, this does not tell us much. However, one wonders if the government did pursue the option of asking media houses to donate slots for mass outreach. Knowing Kenyan government, that would not be the preferable option.
  • Ksh 42 Mn to lease  15 ambulances: It starts looking murky at this point. That is Ksh 2.8 Mn per ambulance. One certainly hopes this is a lease with a good term. Actually, one dare not hope that.
  • Ksh14.4 Mn to maintain and fuel 30 vehicles: Even murkier. This has traditionally been an area of wastage of public funds.
  •  KSh13.5 Mn to accommodate 30 health care workers over a period of three months: More murk. That is Ksh 150,000 per worker per month. Government already has facilities that could be used for this purpose at a fraction of the cost.
  • Ksh11.8 Mn to set up call centres: These call centres have a history of not attending to calls and when they attend calls, information given is questionable at best. Fully working with telecom companies to host this service would have worked just fine. The additional cost in space and headcount would probably have been reasonable in the long term and telcos which are donating cash (that is used in dubious ways) would rather donate in kind. Again, one can guess that option would not be first on the list for the Kenya government because itchy fingers would not have a place to be dipped in.
  • Ksh 9 Mn printing of quarantine and travellers’ forms and discharge forms: This is pure wastage and even on the rough number of the quarantined people, something funny has happened here. Cabinet Secretary should answer.
  • Ksh 6.5 Mn for stationery: Yet more wastage and deforestation
  • Ksh 4 Mn for tea and snacks: It is our time to snack. That is a lot of tea, scones and mandazi for one month. It is just shameful.
  • Ksh 2 Mn for prepaid phones airtime: I find it hard to believe that Safaricom and Airtel could not have provided a special tariff (Closed User Group) for the government employees involved in Covid-19 program. Then again, that is not how our government reasons.

Kenya has the Covid-19 pandemic but the bigger pandemic is wastage of public funds. The only thing our public never wastes is a chance to loot. More than anything else, that is what will kill Kenyans. If and when we finally hire a new Auditor General, a review of Covid-19 funds management will confirm what Kenyans always expected: the leaders have no iota of shame and a global pandemic is a welcome opportunity for them to fleece the country.

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