OPINION: Corruption, greed could impede Kenya’s war on COVID-19


OPINION: Corruption, greed could impede Kenya's war on COVID-19
File image of medical workers in COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). PHOTO| COURTESY

By Allan Chesang

I googled the meaning of the word corruption, and this is what I found; dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power; a form of dishonesty by a person or organisation entrusted with a position of authority, to acquire illicit benefit or abuse power for one’s private gain. That’s the Wikipedia definition. Thank God for the internet.

How about greed? Google says greed is; intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food; an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs, especially with respect to material wealth.

Key word being more than one needs. Ever heard a saying, the rich want more and more? Even though most have more than they can spend in a lifetime, in fact multiple lifetimes, it’s still not enough for them. You read on the news about staggering amounts of public funds that have been lost to corruption.

Millions, hundreds of millions… billions! A few cases that come mind; failure by Lands Ministry to account for Ksh. 20 billion (2019); the Mega-dams Scandal (2019); the arrest of three governors over corruption allegations (2019), just to mention a few. Public funds, all being directed towards a few elite pockets that are already lined with gold and silver.

According to the 2019 Human Development Index, at least 16 million Kenyans live below the poverty line. Sleeping hungry. Uncertain of where the next meal is going to come from. Living? No, not living – existing, only by the grace of God.

They tell you about a disease pandemic and at first you fear, you cower and you huddle inside your houses. Then hunger checks in. Bills pile up. Unemployment hits. And suddenly, you fear the hopelessness of it all, more than the actual disease.

Then you turn on the news, and you hear about the millions of dollars being allocated to fight the effects of the pandemic. In April 2020, the World Bank sanctioned USD 50 million (approximately Ksh. 5.3 billion) to help Kenya cushion against the effects of COVID-19.

The European Union as well delivered to Kenya 15 million pounds (approximately Ksh. 2.04 billion) in aid. One can’t help but wonder – where is all the money going? Because really, not enough Kenyans have received relief from the pandemic budget.

But alas, only 2 months later, we get the breaking news that EACC is investigating top Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) officials over Ksh.7.7 billion tender for COVID-19 PPEs…Coincidence? Time will tell.

I know it’s such an abstract content when funds meant for helping the public is diverted to other personal use. The one diverting the funds might say to themselves; it’s just money; it’s just a few millions. I’m not really harming anyone.

The trickle-down effect of that decision is felt by the ordinary mwananchi. That family man who just got laid off and can’t make rent. That household that is missing yet another meal and has to go to bed hungry. That youth that is unemployed yet is the breadwinner.

Be the change you want to see in the world. That’s what Gandhi said. If only one person did their job in service of the people, and the next person did their job as well, the domino effect will check in and that narrative will be changed. Granted, Wanjiku will feel the positive impact. So how about you be that person? Be that change you want to see in the world.

Allan Chesang is a commentator on socio-political issues and founder of the Allan Chesang Foundation

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