Who’s shouting corruption? Stop it, this meat is delicious

06Nov 2016
Anne Kiruku
Guardian On Sunday
Ea Wowen in Perspective
Who’s shouting corruption? Stop it, this meat is delicious

EVEN before Kenyans could absorb the shocking loss of millions of dollars through the infamous National Youth Service (NYS) scandal that saw former Cabinet Secretary for Devolution Ann Waiguru forced to resign,

another mega scam involving an even larger amount in the Ministry of Health was unearthed.

The latest mega scandal, involving more than Ksh5 billion ($50 million) has seen Kenyans vent their anger on social media, many of them calling on the president to stop the looting spree.

Most of the missing funds, according to a leaked draft audit report, were lost through diversion of funds, double payment, manipulation of the government Integrated Financial Management Systems, and payment to phony suppliers.

According to the internal audit report, the amounts lost could be higher because the team is yet to complete the ministry’s transactions for the year.

According to the latest Transparency International (TI) report released in January, Kenya was ranked at position 139 out of 168 countries.

It retained a score of 25 points out of a possible 100, tying with Uganda. It however performed worse than its neighbours Rwanda and Tanzania, who scored 54 and 30 points respectively. Burundi came last in the region with a score of 21 points.

It is unfortunate that part of the stolen money was meant to be sent to county governments to support the free maternity care programme and purchase of mobile medical clinics for urban slums.

This is occurring even as cases of maternal deaths continue to rise in rural areas and urban slums.

Maternal and child mortality rates are on the rise, even as these huge amounts are looted from the relevant ministry.

Perennial strikes by doctors and nurses across the country as they agitate for higher pay and better working conditions are making an already bad situation worse.

To add insult to injury, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health publicly threatened the journalist who first reported the scandal. Though the PS later apologised to the Kenya Union of Journalists and the Editors Guild, the damage had already been done.

The latest scandal has implicated President Uhuru Kenyatta’s close relatives, friends and confidants, raising fury among Kenyans going through tough economic times. The hashtags #KenyattaFamilyOfLooters and #Mafyahouse were trending on social media as Kenyans vented their anger.

It is a shame that a firm belonging to the president’s sister can be placed in a list of disadvantaged groups prioritised to receive tenders reserved for the youth, women and disabled persons.

The latest spate of scandals in the Kenya come in the wake of a report to be released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) saying that many African countries such as Kenya and Tanzania have accumulated more than $25 billion worth of bonds, with a principal amount of more than $35 billion.

According to UNCTAD, many African countries are now facing repayment difficulties and could run into debt crises. As the high priests of corruption steal funds meant for the sick, millions of patients are dying due to lack of drugs and understaffed health facilities, among a host of challenges facing the health ministry.

The devastating effects of corruption to a country’s economy and service delivery cannot be overemphasised. In fact, corruption has been defined as a global threat that is hampering economic development by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Corruption aggravates inequality and injustice, and undermines stability, especially in the world's most vulnerable regions as well as to the most vulnerable groups such as women, children, rural and slum dwellers.

Corruption is now a global phenomenon found in all countries – but evidence shows it is more deeply rooted in poor and developing countries, as a result harming the poor more than the rich.

The vice stifles economic growth and diverts desperately needed funds from education, healthcare and other public services. An estimated $1 trillion gets siphoned off through bribes every year, according to the World Bank.

It is evident that corruption is a barrier to development, especially because it diverts resources away from poverty-eradication efforts and sustainable development.

Maybe it’s time the region borrowed a leaf from countries that have successfully fought corruption by putting in place stringent deterrents, like in China. If nothing is done and the looting spree continues, Kenyans will soon not have a country to speak of, only a shell of its former glory.