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COVID-19 corruption in Kenya: Officials and businesspeople targeted

Kenyan investigators are to recommend the prosecution of at least 15 top government officials and businesspeople over the alleged misuse of millions of dollars meant for buying Covid-19 medical supplies, the BBC has learned.

The probe uncovered evidence of tenders being allegedly given to politically connected individuals and businesses.The government ordered an investigation following a public outcry.It received about $2bn (£1.6bn) in aid and grants to fight Covid-19.

But health workers have complained about a shortage of public protective equipment (PPE), saying their lives are at risk.The state body responsible for purchases, the Kenya Medical Supply Authority (Kemsa), has denied that any money was stolen.

What are the allegations?

The first phase of investigations has centred around the alleged misuse of $7.8m meant to purchase emergency PPE for healthcare workers and hospitals across the country.Investigators from Kenya’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) say preliminary findings have shown that several laws on public procurement were flouted during the awarding of the tenders.

A man wearing a face mask walks past a mural depicting health workers by the Mathare Roots Society initiative group that uses the graffiti form of creative art to inform and sensitise the residents of Mathare slums.
image captionArtists have painted graffiti in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, to show support for health workers

In a report to a joint Senate Committee on Health and Covid-19 on Wednesday, the EACC said: “Investigations had established criminal culpability on the part of public officials in the purchase and supply of Covid-19 emergency commodities at Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) that led to irregular expenditure of public funds.”The EACC has recommended the prosecution of all officials at Kemsa and the Ministry of Health who it believes were behind the scandal.The second phase of investigations will target companies that are alleged to have benefitted from the tenders, although there is no suggestion any of the companies misappropriated Covid-19 funds.Documents submitted to the Senate committee, and which the BBC has seen, show the nature of contracts handed out by Kemsa.In some cases, tenders were given to companies that had been formed just weeks earlier.A good example is Shop and Buy limited, which, the documents allege, got tenders worth $10m despite being formed in February, just weeks before the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the country.The company has denied any wrongdoing.

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