By the time the country is declared Coronavirus-free, we might be dealing with another big scandal. This is according to media specialist Macharia Gaitho who shared concerns on the mismanagement of public funds during the launch of the findings of the impact of Covid19 on governance on 30th June 2020.
“One of the things that worries me is that times of crisis, for some people, provide an opportunity to enrich themselves. Every major scandal in this country has been around a crisis,” Mr Gaitho intimated during the webinar. Current circumstances surrounding the management of Covid-19-related funds show indications that a scandal could be indeed be brewing.
According to the ‘Action For Transparency’ website, a total of Ksh 194,663,072,350 has been raised as aid money so far to help fight the virus and its adverse socio-economic effects. However, these foreign and local donations are yet to be fully utilized as healthcare workers across various counties have threatened to down their tools citing salary delays and poor working conditions. Furthermore, nurses are demanding an increase in their allowances and requested to have them increased to match that of the doctors.
This threatens the already strained healthcare system as calls by medical associations to the government to hire more staff has consistently fallen on deaf ears. On 14th July 2020, Kenya buried the first doctor to die of the virus. Prior to and after this sad event, medics have continued asking to be facilitated with more personal protective equipment (PPEs) even as the number of positive covid19 cases continues to rise. The PPEs in question could be a subject of interest for the anti-corruption bodies as it turns the procurement process of the equipment is reported to have been done irregularly.
“This pandemic provides opportunities for very many to steal. You’ve heard CS Kagwe talk about the cartels at Afya house that he’s having to confront. Anytime there’s an emergency, the procurement processes are short-circuited because we need some of these things like yesterday and that creates opportunities for some. That is the nature of our country,” Mr Gaitho added. The crisis characterized by weakened institutions provides the conducive environment for a few to enrich themselves as the rest fight for their lives and livelihoods.
Already under normal circumstances, Kenya has tried to slay the corruption dragon in futility. Doing so under the prevailing circumstances may be next to impossible. That, however, does not mean that those charged with the oversight role altogether should despair and allow the greedy to thrive. A consensus was reached by participants in the webinar mentioned earlier that there has to be a joint effort between all arms of the government, media, civil society and Kenyans for there to be absolute transparency and accountability even as we work towards flattening the curve.
Corruption in Kenya is largely an institutional problem rather than a cultural one. So to count on the greedy growing a conscience that would force them to back away from stealing from taxpayers is clearly not an effective tactic. Upon solving the revenue allocation formula stalemate, the Senate should ensure that the monies reaching the counties are utilized for the purposes stated. This also applies to the conditional grants given to the counties specifically to fight Covid-19.
Parliament needs to not only act with speed but with the firmness that will weed out the corrupt and bring them to book.