Annually the world observes the International Day of Anti-Corruption on 9th December. This year’s theme as indicated on the United Nations website focuses on uniting against corruption while acknowledging that corruption is one of the biggest obstacles to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and vision 2030.
Indeed, corruption has been an impediment to achieving growth as it has been witnessed in Kenya. According to the 2019 Corruption Perception Index reported by Transparency International, Kenya ranks is the 137th least corrupt nation out of 180 countries. The statistics accurately mirror the situation on the ground that has seen the disease, if you may call it, suck the life and potential out of almost all industries. Several development projects, both at the county and national level, have been marred with controversy at the expense of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
Recently the Senate Ad-hoc Committee that was constituted to investigate the Managed Medical Equipment System (MES) tabled a report that revealed that the Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) Programme was just another money-making scheme for some highly connected people. However, the report findings did not give conclusive recommendations nor mention the names of those who took part in the scheme, proving even further that the corrupt are insulated persons who have managed to build an ecosystem that protects them and allows them to thrive in their thievery.
For many, leaders and citizenry, the MES scandal didn’t hit home because as a society we have become numb to such reports. The mention of billions being looted has overtime become normalized largely because there are no consequences that follow. That has been the case until recently when the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) announced the death of 28-year old Dr Stephen Mogusu who was deployed to Machakos under the UHC programme. On announcing his death on their social media platforms, KMPDU noted that the young medic had not received compensation for five months and he had not been on any medical cover.
The cost of corruption is undoubtedly steep. That a young man in his early years of a promising career contracted the deadly virus, Covid-19 and died is not only saddening and maddening but a statement to the failure by the state to protect him. The past six months have seen reports upon reports on irregularities and misappropriation of funds meant to cater to the needs of healthcare workers at both county and national level. Yet medics have numerous times made known their needs to the Ministry owing to the fact that they are at the forefront of fighting the disease.
Unfortunately, medics’ pleas have been treated with contempt by the political class who have clearly shown that their only priority is securing their political future and not delivering the services they’re mandated to do. As a member state of the United Nations Kenya has an obligation to put in efforts in localizing the SDGs vision to provide a better quality of life. We, however, seem to be running in the opposite direction while the rest forge forward.
The first four goals; no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being and quality education have been the hardest hit by the pandemic. This has been felt the world over. The mass job losses have seen families plunge into poverty and depend on support to get by. The pandemic has also brought about a lot of confusion in the school syllabus and has threatened to leave behind those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The government’s reaction to all of this hasn’t helped. In the midst of the confusion, corrupt folks have found multiple entry points to loot without having to worry about facing the law.
Like a Kenyan on Twitter said, this should be a George Floyd moment. The death of Dr Mogusu should be a turning point where we as Kenyans look inwards and make a deliberate choice to rid of our country the disease that is corruption. In our individual duty to hold the government accountable, it should not be lost on us that any harm that is placed on our doctors is in itself harm to us, the populace. We should remember that working hospitals translate to better health for us. In the same vein, a strengthened judiciary means justice may at some point be dispensed equally to all of us regardless of social status.
Eventually, we have to realize that we have the moral and civic obligation to demand better working conditions, transparency and accountability in all sectors for all of us to attain a better living standard. This fight against corruption is for all of us to take up if we want to safeguard our country.