Economy

PS says ministry in the dark on cash raised for Covid-19 fight

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Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

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Summary

  • Principal Secretary Susan Mochache told Parliament that the Ministry had no role in the money that went to the Fund.
  • The Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu, in a special audit, revealed that the Kenya Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund Board received Sh1.3 billion as at December 2020.
  • The Fund was established in March 2020 to facilitate voluntary contributions to help fight the pandemic.

The Ministry of Health says it is not aware of the total amount of money that the Kenya Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund Board raised to fight coronavirus.

Principal Secretary Susan Mochache told Parliament that the Ministry had no role in the money that went to the Fund.

“We do not know the amount of money that was raised by the private sector and which went to the Fund,” Ms Mochache told the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Ms Mochache said the ministry only received Sh17.6 billion out of which Sh14.5 billion was from the Treasury and Sh3 billion from the World Bank to fight the pandemic in 2020.

The Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu, in a special audit, revealed that the Kenya Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund Board received Sh1.3 billion as at December 2020.

The Fund was established in March 2020 to facilitate voluntary contributions to help fight the pandemic.

Treasury PS Julius Muia on Wednesday told a parliamentary committee that the emergency cash collected by the task force is not reflected in the Treasury’s books of accounts. This was after the fund was transformed into a private limited company.

Kenya Breweries Ltd managing director Jane Karuku was the chairperson of the 12-member board drawn from both the government and private sector.

Others were Michael Joseph (Safaricom), James Mwangi (Equity Bank), Narenda Raval (founder, Devki Group of Companies), Joshua Oigara (KCB Bank), Jeremy Awori (ABSA bank) and Wachira Waruru (Royal Media Services).

Mohammed Hersi (Pollmans Tours and Safaris), Phyllis Wakiaga (Kenya Association of Manufacturers) and Kennedy Kihara (Principal Administrative Secretary at the Office of the President) also sat on the board.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya were designated as joint representatives of the government to the Fund.

Ms Mochache was on Thursday hard-pressed to explain why the ministry had no representation on the board that was gazetted by the Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani and which spent public funds.

PAC questioned how the Kenya Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund Board was allowed to operate without the oversight of the Ministry of Health.

“You were at the centre of fighting Covid-19 and nobody could do it without consulting you. Why did the Ministry fail to have representation on the Fund? Where was this Fund reporting to?” Opiyo Wandayi asked.

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale said the Kenya Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund Board raised billions of shillings during the pandemic and wondered why the Ministry of Health was not involved in monitoring the spending.

Ms Mochache said the Kenya Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund Board was a private sector-led team that raised funds that were used to support county governments and various public hospitals.

“The money was from the private sector. The Ministry of Health had no role in the money. We hear they dealt directly with counties and they donated things like personal protective gear and gloves,” Ms Mochache said.

Appearing before the committee that is scrutinising a special audit on the utilisation of Covid-19 funds, Ms Mochache distanced the Ministry from the Fund operations.

“Not a shilling from the Fund came to us even if they received public funds,” Ms Mochache said.

Mr Wandayi drew the attention of the PS to a 2020 gazette notice appointing persons to sit in the Fund board.

“According to the gazette notice establishing the Fund, they were to mobilise financial reserves for procurement of essential supplies for public institutions, emergency response and help to health professionals,” Mr Duale said.

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