CIVIL SOCIETY CALLS FOR FRESH INVESTIGATIONS INTO DISAPPEARANCE OF ASSORTED MEDICAL EQUIPMENT DONATED BY JACK MA AND ALIBABA FOUNDATIONS. MISSING CONSIGNMENT THAT WAS GIVEN FOR FREE MAY HAVE BEEN SOLD TO NATIONAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENTS AT EXORBITANT PRICES
The Civil Society Reference Group (CSRG) calls for fresh investigations into the disappearance of assorted medical equipment donated by Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundations that went missing in March 2020 at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
The medical equipment donated by Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundations in March 2020 to help Kenya deal with the coronavirus pandemic that went missing at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport without a trace may have been sold by unscrupulous individuals to national government agencies, county governments, and private hospitals.
Failure by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to come clean on the whereabouts of the donations even after reports emerged that they had been stolen upon arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport lends credence to the possibility that well-connected tenderpreneurs may have seized the donations, hoarded them and later sold them at an opportune time to cash in the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will be remembered how Kenyans received the news with joy when Mr. Ma’s care package comprising 100,000 face masks and 20,000 testing kits arrived at the JKIA on March 24 aboard an Ethiopian Airplane, only for the huge consignment to disappear without any official statement to date as to whether they were recovered, who had stolen them and where they were finally used.
With procurement irregularities being reported at the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA), and the lack of transparency and accountability surrounding the procurement of similar items by county governments, it is likely that national government agencies, county governments, and private hospitals may have knowingly or unwittingly bought the same items from the devious and crooked individuals who seized the donations at the JKIA.
This makes it imperative that the probe by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) into procurement graft at KEMSA digs deeper into how companies that were irregularly awarded tenders to supply Personal Protective Equipment at exorbitant prices obtained their supplies.
The shadowy companies that benefitted from the KEMSA tenders may have supplied what had been donated to Kenyans for free.
It will also be crucial that the audit into the use of COVID-19 funds by county governments being undertaken by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) looks into the credibility of county-based companies that seem to have been the beneficiaries of tenders to supply COVID-19 medical equipment in the devolved units.
The CSRG finds it concerning that despite the clarity of county laws on procurement, most counties seem to have ignored public participation in the procurement of the COVID-19 medical equipment based on reports that have been serialized in the media so far.
Kisumu County officials who issued the tender to Hela Intimates EPZ Ltd Company, that supplied substandard surgical and face masks should be surcharged for the loss of millions of taxpayers’ money. This, even after nurses in the Lakeside City raised concern about the quality of face masks they were using when handling COVID-19 patients.
That this should be happening under the watch of H.E. Governor Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o who also appointed himself the Executive Committee member for Health points to a deeply rooted corruption and financial malpractices in the county, considering that the Kenya Bureau of Standards has since delisted the masks as substandard.
The CSRG also finds it strange that almost the entire amount of Kshs 362.7 million COVID-19 budget in Kisumu County, which included Kshs 159 million from the national government, went to only two companies – Hela Intimates EPZ Limited and Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies (MEDS).
It is strange that from Homa Bay to Kisumu; and from Siaya to Busia, the majority of the companies contracted to supply COVID-19 medical equipment and renovate hospital facilities do not have proper registration documents and not listed in the official registry of companies.
Most of the county governments also ignored the requirement for public participation in the procurement processes, thereby putting at risk millions of taxpayers’ money and donations from well-wishers in procurements for which there was no value for money.
It is not for nothing that Section 91 of the County Government Act requires each county government to establish such modalities and platforms for public participation as ICT-based platforms like websites, noticeboards in all urban and popular meeting places and at project sites to facilitate announcement of job opportunities, appointments tenders, tender awards and other important announcements of public interest so that citizens and the public can monitor and conduct social audit of such processes.
The Office of the Auditor-General should satisfy itself, as it conducts investigations into possible misuse of COVID-19 funds by county governments that these public participation platforms are there.
Where such participation platforms are lacking, the OAG should be left with no option but to recommend the prosecution of officials concerned.