OPINION: Kenya shall triumph against Coronavirus pandemic

By Abraham Mariita

Without a doubt, Kenya shall triumph against the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, just like the rest of the world will.

Similar plagues have hit parts of the world before, leaving behind numerous deaths, devastated families and weak economies. The Spanish flu, one of the deadliest pandemic (1918-1919), killed more than 50 million people and disrupted commerce and industry in several countries. But the world over, has managed to rise up and recover from the loss. This is why we must not lose hope and should neither lose focus on our democratic and accountability role.

As Kenyans, continue to exercise safety precautions, the government is leading efforts to contain the reported cases and prevent further spread through several inter agency efforts led by the Ministry of Health.

This preparedness involves allocation of resources to enable key functions ranging from border-control to health service provision, in enabling effective management and prevention of Covid-19 cases. While this is ongoing, we must not forget that all public procurement processes should be fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective.

The Central Bank of Kenya has released Sh7.4 billion to support government’s efforts towards containing the spread of coronavirus. In addition, the government has also received a shot in the arm from donors to help manage Covid-19.

The World Bank recently announced $60 million to help Kenya respond to the pandemic, while the Jack Ma Foundation announced a donation of 100,000 medical masks, 20,000 test kits and 1,000 protective suits to Kenya and other 53 African countries for this cause. Such a noble gesture to help in this unprecedented health situation, in promoting protection and possible prevention of any loss of life.

Nonetheless, history has shown that the greedy do not take a break, they will keep on looting at every available opportunity. For instance, during a famine in 2008, a ban on importation of maize was lifted by the government to allow businessmen to import maize to supplement the local produce.

Thereafter a scandal unfolded where a litany of briefcase millers purportedly imported maize from our own national reserve, and some of which was unfit for human consumption.

A few months ago, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was tasked to explain the over Sh10 billion unaccounted for funds, flagged by the Auditor General report.

NDMA, an agency mandated to establish mechanisms which ensure that drought does not result in emergencies and that the impacts of climate change are sufficiently mitigated.

While it seems as a dire emergency situation for many, the Corona virus situation is creating an inclination to corruption and availability of corruption opportunities to some. Such people will dishonestly and illegally appropriate, use or traffic the funds and goods they have been entrusted with for personal enrichment.

In this case, “it is not power that corrupts, it is fear that corrupts” said John Steinbeck. Perhaps fear that the economy will slump, and they should be on the better side.

All of these resources, donations or otherwise, should be managed effectively by those mandated, and for the benefit of the public rather than particular individuals. The Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, 2015, provides procedures for efficient public procurement and for assets disposal by public entities, giving effect to Article 227 of the Constitution, which must be adhered to.

There can be no over-emphasis of promoting integrity, transparency and accountability in a country like Kenya, which scored 28 out of 100 in the 2019 Corruption Perception Index.

Emergency situations should not override the need for prudence in purchasing goods and services for the public, and neither should the situation allow waste and unaccounted spending.

Once we are done with the pandemic, all agencies including County Governments, shall be held accountable on their spending during this period, through provisions of Public Audit Act, 2015.

Fellow Kenyans, let us exercise social distancing to protect ourselves and our families and wash our hands to help reduce the burden on our healthcare system. Most importantly let us remain vigilant.

The Writer is a Media and Communications Professional