Kemsa scandal to shock nation, EACC boss says

Tuesday, August 25th, 2020 00:00 |
Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission chief executive Twalib Mbarak. Photo/PD/FILE

Corruption scandal at the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) procurement scandal will “shock” the nation due to the amount of money involved and its complex nature.

In an interview with People Daily yesterday, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) Chief Executive Twalib Mbarak termed the scandal as “massive” and warned that investigations will take some time to conclude.

Twalib spoke as Opposition leader Raila Odinga took on Deputy President William Ruto over his comments on alleged corruption in the use of Covid-19 funds, warning that it could be part of a cover-up. 

“The position of the party in the current allegations of corruption in Covid-19 related resources is that the government needs to conduct a thorough and urgent audit of all the funds. 

ODM has always advocated this systematic approach to fighting corruption,” Raila said in a statement.

But speaking on phone yesterday, Mbarak said the investigation might take longer than expected to unravel since it involves a wide range of issues.

Mbarak said the anti-corruption commission is investigating aspects of financial impropriety, abuse of procurement regulations through direct sourcing, Kemsa staff using proxies to milk the medical agency, possible price inflation of supplied items as well as profiling companies involved to establish if they are genuine or were registered as conduits. 

“This is a big and wide case that will take time to process. The case has very many angles including financial analysis, procurement, to establish if the items were sold at the right price or there was exaggeration of costs or if they were dummy supplies.

We want to look at these companies, which are many, if they have a history and profile or whether they are briefcase entities,” Twalib said.  

He revealed that several people had already recorded statements. He said more work needs to be done to build a watertight case that “will stand the test of time” in court.

 Consequently, the EACC boss has appealed to Kenyans to keep calm, saying pressure from the political class and civil society was “unnecessary” because the agency was on top of the matter and once complete it will be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). 

Concern that detectives probing the scandal might be compromised should not bother Kenyans, the EACC boss said, and promised an open investigation that will leave no stone unturned. 

Other politicians

But in his statement to newsrooms, Raila dismissed Ruto and other politicians and individuals who have condemned the alleged theft of Covid-19 funds, wondering whether they have evidence to prove their allegations. 

Raila defended the ODM position on the matter, saying his call for a special audit was not aimed at protecting anyone.

He said that only an urgent audit of all funds at the disposal of various State agencies, departments and ministries to fight the pandemic will establish facts on the use of the resources.

“It is with this background in mind that ODM wants a speedy professional audit that can lead to prosecution instead of a political shouting match that creates more confusion and ends up clouding the issues and even covering up for the thieves,” said Raila. 

At the weekend, DP Ruto criticised the  ODM position on the alleged scandal after party Secretary General Edwin Sifuna dismissed corruption claims that have rocked Kemsa terming it a creation of the media.

“The pretentious (former) Opposition, now turned lords of corruption, attempted defence of the Covid-19 grand larceny is not shocking.

It confirms the worst of Kenyan’s fears that their side of the Hand Shake was never interested in the people’s good but opportunity to loot. What a shame,” wrote Ruto on his Twitter account. 

Yesterday, Raila said ODM will not defend anyone, including members or relatives and friends of party officials who may be found to have benefitted from funds and other resources meant for the fight against coronavirus.

“ODM’s track record on commitment to fighting corruption and safeguarding public resources is well documented and will never tolerate corruption irrespective of the people involved in the scam,” Raila said. 

He reminded the country that during the Grand Coalition government, the party successfully pushed for systematic audit of the sale of Grand Regency Hotel and the audit of the Anglo Leasing Scandal by Kroll and Associates that led to appropriate legal action on culprits.

In addition, he said that when the maize scandal erupted, it was ODM that pushed for the appointment of PriceWaterhouse Coopers to audit the matter, leading to action against culprits, adding that a special audit on the Nairobi Cemetery scam also led to convictions in the Sh283 million theft.

  Raila said a special audit had also worked well in the recent past in the case of the Arror and Kimwarer dams, whereby the truth was established when the Auditor-General probed the Sh60 billion scandal. 

A similar approach, he said, also worked with regard to the National Youth Service scam where in 2016, the office of the Auditor-General was able to establish that Kenyan taxpayers lost Sh1.9 billion in the scandal and proceeded to identify the principal beneficiaries of the theft.

“Our experience in this country is that the best way to bungle and cover up corruption investigations is to have many different voices each with its own version of truth.

We saw that noise with regard to Arror and Kimwarer dams and the NYS scams, among others,” he added

Suna East MP Junet Mohammed and National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee chairman and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi echoed Raila’s sentiments for a special audit on Covid-19 funds.

“We are calling for an exhaustive audit that produces incontrovertible evidence to make a watertight case against anyone found culpable. What’s Tanga Tanga calling for?,” posed Junet.

“A solid position not sidetracked by social media attack dogs. Professional exhaustive audit is the way to go in unearthing rot and building insurmountable evidence. Thank you Baba for this clarity,” added Wandayi.

But Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen told off Raila’s call for an audit, saying its aim is for “dry cleaning.”

Murkomen said it is ironic that he (Raila) and Sifuna were “busy outdoing each other as to who can give the best defence to looters” following their contradictory statements.

“My friend Baba, for the first time you are stammering big on matters of corruption.

Can you ask your top party leaders and financiers implicated to take political responsibility? This is your baby, deal with it,” he tweeted.

The current mess at Kemsa comes at a time when foreign donors are threatening to withdraw money given to the country following the funds scandal. Reporting by Anthony Mwangi, Mercy Mwai and Eric Wainaina

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