PPE funds were prudently spent, Covid-19 board says
Anthony Mwangi and Rebecca Wangari
Equity Bank Chief Executive Dr James Mwangi yesterday defended the use of funds by the Kenya Covid-19 Fund Board.
Mwangi, who chairs the board, said their change of tack in the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) averted loss of billions of shillings targeted by cartels.
He said the board opted for a different tactic to avoid a similar scandal that hit Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) where few people pocketed huge amounts of money.
Mwangi spoke in the wake of a report by the Auditor General which revealed that over Sh400 million could have been lost in the Cash Transfer Programme aimed at benefiting 100,000 Kenyans affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu in the special audit report says the Covid-19 Fund Board gave the money to non-existing people as no evidence was provided to confirm their identity.
The money had been set aside to assist Kenyans living in urban informal settlements for a month.
The Covid-19 Emergency Fund approved the cash transfer programme on June 2, 2020 and Sh400 million was transferred to Mpesa Holding Company Limited to be disbursed to the identified beneficiaries, reads the report which is currently before Parliament.
“Consequently, the lawfulness and effectiveness of utilisation of Sh400 million could not be confirmed,”she said.
She has also questioned the procurement of PPEs valued at Sh150.4 million from various suppliers saying the equipment supplied were not inspected as required and their acceptability could not be confirmed.
The audit revealed that the board paid Sh100 million while the remaining Sh50 million had outstanding commitments.
Further, the auditor says she could not distinguish who was supposed to allocate the tenders between the Fund Board and Equity Group Foundation which had successfully procured for the first tranche of PPEs at Sh259.4 million.
Procurement of goods
But speaking in Murang’a while donating PPEs to various hospitals in the county, Mwangi said the initial plan was to import the items from China but the companies approached quoted very exorbitant prices.
This, he said, made them opt to look for local manufacturers who could make the same equipment without compromising on quality.
“We trained the manufacturers on how to make the PPEs and they were able to make quality products,” he said.
He said 76 local factories were contracted to do the work saying so far they have employed 7,000 workers.
“One mask was being quoted at Sh800 compared to Sh5 for locally made masks,” he said. Further, he said a medical gown is being made at Sh600 against Sh20,000 quoted by the suppliers.
He said the kitty which had been set aside for the PPEs is not even half spent pointing out that if they imported them, the funds would have been finished in six months.
However, the auditor questions the process used saying that the Covid-19 Fund did not subject the procurement of the PPEs to the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act and the attendant regulations.
The report will be discussed by MPs next week and if adopted, state officials named will be subjected to investigations by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission.