Jack Ma’s donation was stolen, State now admits

Friday, September 4th, 2020 16:00 |
Ethiopia’s ambassador to Kenya Meles Alem (left), Kenya Airports Authority official Alex Gitari and acting director of Public Health Patrick Amoth at JKIA in March when they received Jack Ma’s donation. Photo/PD/File

Some of the Covid-19 donations from the Jack Ma Foundation did not arrive in the country despite reports that they were delivered, a parliamentary committee was told yesterday.

Yesterday, the government for the first time admitted that the consignment  of 21 packages of coronavirus equipment from the Chinese billionaire did not make way to Nairobi but were offloaded in Addis Ababa where they were repackaged and sold out. 

Transport Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Chris Obure yesterday told the National Assembly’s Health Committee that the ministry, which was tasked to clear the items at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) did not receive 21 packages which were listed as part of the consignment. 

Obure, however, said the ministry was not informed of the specific items contained in the missing luggage.

Oburu further told the committee that the ministry realised that the 21 packages were missing after verifying against the packing documents from China. 

“We realised that 21 packages were not part of the listed items. We raised the matter with the Ministry of Health officials who were the consignee but got no answer,” said Obure.

He told the committee that the Ethiopian Airlines crew that delivered Jack Ma’s donation to Nairobi maintained that it brought what was packed in China.

Committee member Joshua Kuttuny said information had been conveyed to the Kenya government that Jack Ma Foundation had insisted on the donations being sent through Ethiopia for fear that corrupt government officials in some African countries including Kenya might not deliver the items to the intended recipients.

True to Jack Ma’s worries, what he had donated in good faith ended up being sold to the government. 

Yesterday, Obure said he had no information why the Chinese billionaire decided to send the donation through Addis Ababa.

When he appeared before the committee on Wednesday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe had denied that the donation from Jack Ma was stolen.

“We are not aware of any missing donation from any well-wisher, in fact, we had it through the media that Jack Ma’s donations were stolen and then sold to this ministry,” Kagwe said.

Missing cargo

But speaking during yesterday’s session, Obure said he had personally raised the matter with top officials of the Ministry of Health who confirmed they were aware of the missing cargo and were pursuing the matter through the ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ethiopian Airlines.

Government Director of Clearing Agency Felix Aten said that upon learning of the missing cargo, he raised the issue with the Ministry of Health who promised to follow up.

“The Health ministry is yet to come up with a response and we are still waiting.  My assumption is that they are still probing the matter,” Aten said.

Asked by committee chairperson Sabina Chege to confirm whether the consignment disappeared after landing in Nairobi or while on transit, Obure said it was established that the items were offloaded in Addis Ababa, which was the first destination.

There have been allegations that Covid-19 donations, including those from Ma, were misappropriated or diverted.

Donations from the Foundation included 100,000 face masks but less than 20,000 were delivered to Kemsa.

Consignment to Kenya also included 20,000 testing kits, which arrived at JKIA on March 24.

Kagwe has since acknowledged that thieves had found their way to Jack Ma’s consignment, and promised that police had opened investigations into the matter.

Obure further told the committee that the Ethiopian Public Health Institute wrote to the Kenya government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs notifying it on the number of items contained in the donated consignment.

It also emerged that the consignment was not insured and it was not possible to claim the missing packages.

Obure said the Transport ministry has since surrendered clearing duties to the National Treasury and was not privy to the continuing investigations on the matter.

“The mandate to clear items on behalf of the government has since been transferred from us to the National Treasury.

The matter of the missing items can now be well explained by Treasury and the ministry of Foreign Affairs who are pursuing the matter with the neighbouring country,” Obure told the committee. 

A similar philanthropic gesture from the Jack Ma Foundation was extended to more than 30 other African countries.

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