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Kenya anti-graft agency slams procurement of COVID-19 equipment

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s anti-corruption agency has documented evidence of “criminal” behaviour by officials over the procurement of COVID-19 emergency equipment, said a report presented to the Senate.

FILE PHOTO: A protester holds a placard during a demonstration against suspected corruption in the response of the Kenyan government to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Nairobi, Kenya, August 21, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission began investigating allegations of graft in June over the procurement and supply of COVID-19 equipment by the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority. The commission said there was “irregular expenditure” of 7.8 billion Kenyan shillings ($71.96 million).

The revelations come at a time when medical staff in the East African nation have gone on a series of strikes over low pay and poor-quality protective equipment to treat COVID-19 patients. [nL4N2FN1WR]

“The investigation established criminal culpability on the part of public officials in the purchase and supply of COVID-19 emergency commodities at Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) that led to irregular expenditure of public funds,” the commission said in a report it sent to lawmakers on Wednesday.

The watchdog shared its preliminary findings with the Director of Public Prosecutions and has recommended charges against some officials and a system-wide review at the procurement authority to “seal corruption loopholes in future.”

A spokeswoman from the Health Ministry was unavailable for comment. KEMSA is a state-run agency which comes under the ministry.

The head of KEMSA was suspended last month over allegations that it had procured low quality items and inflated prices of others.

In a separate report seen by Reuters on Thursday, the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority catalogued instances of alleged inflation of prices for products procured by KEMSA.

Paracetamol tablets sold at 40 shillings per pack were bought for 66.50 shillings during the pandemic, while alcohol-based sanitizers priced at 313 shillings were purchased at 495 shillings, the report said.

“There was no evidence of indicative price indices obtained through market survey,” the report said.

It also alleged that most “tenders were retrospectively negotiated and evaluated after the deliveries” and “some of the negotiated prices were not as per the prices as proposed.”

Last month, police teargassed protesters in Nairobi during a demonstration against alleged corruption in the procurement of protective gear meant for defence against COVID-19.

Health workers in Kenya have posted images on social media showing what they claim is inadequate protective equipment provided to them, such as porous dust overalls that would not prevent the spread of the virus.

($1 = 108.4000 Kenyan shillings)

writing by Omar Mohammed; editing by Katharine Houreld and Alexandra Hudson

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