HARD QUESTIONS ON EXPENDITURE

Making of a scandal: Covid-19 cash already being stolen?

We can’t use a health pandemic to steal from Kenyans.

In Summary

• Some Sh10 million has been allocated is for tea and snacks and Sh2 million already spent on airtime.

• In addition, Sh42 million has been spent on leasing 15 ambulances, translating to Sh2.8 million each per month!

Passengers being screened at the Tana River bridge before boarding a bus to Nairobi
COVID-19: Passengers being screened at the Tana River bridge before boarding a bus to Nairobi
Image: /STEPHEN ATARIKO

The US with its over a million coronavirus cases has given Kenya Sh705 million, while Russia has donated Sh300 million to FAO to help us combat the locust invasion.

Such donations are suspect and there is more than meets the eye in terms of the quest for natural resources or military tenders such countries are eyeing in Kenya.

On the other hand, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are singing lullabies to the National Treasury by providing soft loans of up to Sh175 billion to cushion the country from Covid-19 effects, especially the shortfalls arising from reduced revenue.

Good as this may look, this encourages lethargy and fiscal indiscipline on the part of Kenya, and is akin to hooking us to the drug of perpetual borrowing by institutions largely controlled by Americans and Europeans.

I am highlighting this because disruptions such as the current pandemic have the potential of creating a new world order, especially tilting the balance of trade and global supply chains to Kenya’s advantage.

You can imagine that so far, only Sh300 million has been sourced from our own revenue to combat this crisis. This reveals our unpreparedness and dependency on others, even when they are sicker than us. Is this not how we continue to mortgage and therefore devalue ourselves as a country?

Further, competition for control of such funds creates a new cadre of the super-rich going by the iron law of oligarchy, especially when they are misused. This sad state of affairs is exemplified by the way governors are outdoing themselves for publicity, in the pretext of serving wananchi.

To begin with, we saw Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua put up an A-frame tent complete with normal hospital beds on top of a green tuft in a stadium. He said it is an emergency hospital in Covid-19 response.

The cinematographer wants to borrow over Sh900 million ostensibly to "bridge a cash flow gap that has affected the County Treasury’s ability to pay March salaries" and giving ‘allowances’ to Covid-19 frontline workers. The Salaries and Remuneration Commission hasn’t approved such allowances.

This is a prototype of a devolved government scandal and similar scenarios are being replicated across many counties. Soon, you will hear of governors having spent hundreds of millions on face masks, even when the majority of Kenyans have either bought them for themselves or made them at home.

 

What is more worrying is the fact that the national government has already spent Sh2.3 billion on Covid-19 related expenses within a month, with the Ministry of Health spending  Sh14.4 million to maintain 30 vehicles translating to a cost of Sh480,000 each.

Some Sh10 million has been allocated is for tea and snacks and Sh2 million already spent on airtime. In addition, Sh42 million has been spent on leasing 15 ambulances, translating to Sh2.8 million each per month!

That's not all. Some Sh12 million has been used for quarantine services for medical staff, while Kenyans have to foot their own bills in government facilities. What kind of stationary can cost Sh6.5 million in a month, while printing travel forms cost another Sh9 million? And how comes Sh70 million has been spent on communication, yet major radio and TV stations have already given Sh150 million worth of free airtime? Does it also mean that the toll-free 719 call centre has already cost the taxpayer Sh11.8 million?

How many PPEs have been used and what happened to Jack Ma’s donations since Kenya Medical Supplies Authority has a budget of Sh593 million for this, having spent Sh277 million already?

Kemsa has also spent Sh330 million on lab equipment, and Sh196 million on test kits, yet counties are complaining they are not getting their orders.

Another Sh10 million has been spent on Kenyan Students in Wuhan, yet other Kenyans are expected to meet their flight costs from China. I have already received distress texts from some of them asking for help in meeting their travel costs. How much would it have cost for the government to cater for two or three flights from Guangzhou, yet KQ planes are lying idle?

Further, what has the military done to warrant the spending of Sh75 million, yet they haven’t been involved in providing public services? Don’t we need soap and water, not bullets and combat gear to fight Covid-19? Also, what media tours has KBC conducted in the era of curfew and travel restrictions to warrant the spending of Sh5 million? Imagine another Sh573 million has been spent on case management and a whopping Sh190 million for rapid response!

This is a mega scam in the making because if government has spent Sh2.3 billion so far out of the targeted Sh40.3bn in a month, it means it has been spending averagely Sh76.6 million per day.

Kenya has 384 cases ( as of Wednesday) and if you average the amount spent, so far it translates to about Sh6 million per patient.

Isn’t this akin to responding to a mosquito bite with a hammer? We can’t use a health pandemic to steal from Kenyans.

A commission of inquiry can as well be gazetted since we already have a scandal in the making.