Coronavirus corruption in Kenya: Officials and businesspeople targeted

Kenyan investigators are to recommend the prosecution of at least 15 top government officials and businesspeople over the alleged misuse of millions of dollars meant for buying Covid-19 medical supplies, the BBC has learned.The probe uncovered evidence of tenders being allegedly given to politically connected individuals and businesses.The government ordered an investigation following a public outcry.It received about $2bn (£1.6bn) in aid and grants to fight Covid-19.

But health workers have complained about a shortage of public protective equipment (PPE), saying their lives are at risk.The state body responsible for purchases, the Kenya Medical Supply Authority (Kemsa), has denied that any money was stolen.

What are the allegations?

The first phase of investigations has centred around the alleged misuse of $7.8m meant to purchase emergency PPE for healthcare workers and hospitals across the country.Investigators from Kenya’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) say preliminary findings have shown that several laws on public procurement were flouted during the awarding of the tenders.

image captionArtists have painted graffiti in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, to show support for health workers

In a report to a joint Senate Committee on Health and Covid-19 on Wednesday, the EACC said: “Investigations had established criminal culpability on the part of public officials in the purchase and supply of Covid-19 emergency commodities at Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) that led to irregular expenditure of public funds.

“The EACC has recommended the prosecution of all officials at Kemsa and the Ministry of Health who it believes were behind the scandal.The second phase of investigations will target companies that are alleged to have benefitted from the tenders, although there is no suggestion any of the companies misappropriated Covid-19 funds.Documents submitted to the Senate committee, and which the BBC has seen, show the nature of contracts handed out by Kemsa.

In some cases, tenders were given to companies that had been formed just weeks earlier.A good example is Shop and Buy limited, which, the documents allege, got tenders worth $10m despite being formed in February, just weeks before the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the country.The company has denied any wrongdoing.

Other examples are of businesses associated with politicians. According to the documents, one company was owned by relatives of a sitting governor.Also contained in the documents are contracts worth millions of dollars given to people with personal connections to the very highest levels of power.In other instances, PPE was supplied to Kemsa at what is claimed to be hugely inflated prices, sometimes as high as three times the current market rate.

What were the effects of the alleged corruption?

The scandal hit the country even as doctors and nurses complained about a lack of PPE as the country battled the coronavirus outbreak.In August, health workers went on strike over poor working conditions and lack of supplies.Some took to social media to show the sub-standard gloves, hazmat suits and face shields that had allegedly been distributed by the government.They have since gone back to work but have issued another strike notice over the government’s failure to pay the Covid-19 allowances that had been agreed.

image captionGrace Lugaliki was the first doctor to die from Covid-19 in Kenya

Doctors have also claimed that misappropriation of funds may have led to the deaths of some patients.”Let’s say, theoretically, there was money meant for setting up a Covid-19 isolation ward, or for PPE for healthcare workers and that money has been misappropriated,” said Dr Ancent Kituku, Health Minister in Machakos County.”Definitely, that can be correlated with deaths. And it’s true to say then that corruption has led to deaths in this country,” he added.

Source: BBC