Kenya ministry told to publish Covid-19 deals amid graft scandal
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday ordered Kenya's health ministry to publish details of all purchases made during the coronavirus pandemic following allegations government officials stole millions of dollars of vital medical supplies.
The directive applies particularly to tenders issued by the state-run Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA), at the centre of a growing scandal that has prompted strikes at ill-equipped hospitals and street protests.
KEMSA is under fire over allegations government officials and businessmen pilfered $400 million in public money earmarked for medical equipment needed in the fight against coronavirus.
Kenyatta last week instructed the anti-corruption commission to expedite its investigation into KEMSA, which is responsible for supplying Kenya's overwhelmed hospitals treating coronavirus patients. KEMSA's CEO and other top officials have been stood down.
Kenyatta also said the health ministry had 30 days to develop a "transparent" system so that KEMSA's procurement processes could be published online.
"This level of transparency and through the use of technology, will go a very along way in ensuring that we have the confidence of our people that those placed in institutions are able to manage the resources of the Kenyan taxpayer plus our development partners in an open and transparent manner," the president said in a statement.
Medical staff among virus victims
Frontline health workers have been among the 577 to die from coronavirus in Kenya since the first case was detected in March. They include a 32-year-old nurse who succumbed to the disease two weeks after giving birth to her child.
Medical staff dealing with coronavirus patients have complained about the quality of supplies, with some posting images online of defective personal protective equipment sent to emergency rooms across the country.
Doctors in public hospitals went on strike this month, not long after a television investigation alleged massive graft at KEMSA, sparking anti-corruption protests in several Kenyan cities. Police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators in Nairobi last week.
The KEMSA scandal came after Kenyan investigators vowed a separate inquiry into the alleged theft of PPE supplies donated by Chinese billionaire and Alibaba founder Jack Ma.
The allegations of graft and misappropriation surfaced as new infections of Covid-19 soared across Kenya, though numbers have dipped in recent weeks.
Government officials have expressed optimism about the downward trend but WHO Kenya urged caution in a note Monday, warning that overall testing and contact tracing had also declined over the same period.
The East African country had recorded 34,201 cases as of Monday.