‘Money heist’ pandemic

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As a globe, we are facing a pandemic that has cut across all sectors of the economy, and citizens all over the world have felt the effect of Covid-19. In Kenya however, we are facing an even bigger pandemic – money heist. The hashtag #Moneyheist is trending on Twitter in Kenya, not because of the popular Netflix series that features a character called Nairobi but because of reports presented to the public of how $50 million donated by the World Bank was used.

On April 2, 2020, The World Bank Group Board of Directors approved $50 million to ‘…assist Kenya in its efforts to prevent, detect and respond to the threat posed by Covid-19 and strengthen national systems for public health preparedness” said Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, World Bank Country Director for Kenya.

“Blood is core to all clinical aspects of health systems. $10 million of this funding will go towards strengthening the capacity of the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service to provide safe blood and blood products,” said Jane Chuma, Senior Health Economist and Task Team Leader.
The breakdown of how the money was designated once it landed in the hands of Kenyan officials has caught the attention of many Kenyans. The report issued by Health Secretary Mutahi Kagwe showed that 42m shillings was used to lease 15 ambulances, 4m shillings for tea and snacks, 70m shillings on communication, 2m shillings for mobile phone airtime.

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With this said, Kenyans have their doubts on the budget. Kenyans on Twitter questioned  42m shillings being allocated to lease 15 ambulances instead of purchasing new ones or making use of the existing fleet? What difference will 15 ambulances make if the ones available are not in use?

Why allocate 2m shillings for airtime yet telecommunications company Safaricom has offered a free package for medics and officials involved in the fight against Covid-19? What happened to the airtime that was previously allocated to the Health Ministry for the 2019/2020 financial year? Is it possible the airtime allocated has already been exhausted?

Where in this budget are they taking into account the millions of suffering Kenyans who live hand to mouth to the point where a mother was forced to cook stones for her eight children? How much is designated to Kenyans in forced quarantine who cannot afford basic necessities like food?

Digging deeper, why did Mutahi Kagwe reshuffle 30 senior procurement and accounting officers shortly after President Uhuru Kenyatta denied allegations that money has been misappropriated? Was this reshuffle due to whistleblowers in the ministry or was it previously scheduled?

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Why was senior civil servant Susan Mochache’s tweet that read “complete amount of 1 billion kshs from the World Bank and no money has been spent at all” hurriedly deleted? Was this an attempt to cover up some truth that was exposed by that suspicious tweet?

Most importantly, what happens to the rest of the money? Anti-corruption Transparency International Kenya is now calling for transparency and accountability of all funds directed towards the fight for Covid-19. If the officials in charge of the funds are reckless with the management, Kenya will soon be facing an even bigger pandemic – economic crisis.

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