How Elgeyo Marakwet Covid-19 funds ended up buying TV sets!


“Elgeyo Marakwet procured banners and shirts worth Sh652,000, catering services at Sh232,000, 40-inch TV sets at Sh240,000,”

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Wisley Rotich inspects the oxygen plant at Iten County Referral Hospital in February 2023.

By Calister Bonareri

Amid Covid-19 panic and fears over spending days in isolation centres in 2020 and 2021, some suppliers in Elgeyo Marakwet County were smiling all the way to banks, reports indicate.

According to the Controller of Budget, Counties comprising Elgeyo Marakwet had received a total of Sh13 billion from the National Government through the Ministry of Health for quarantine and isolation expenditure. Sh2.36 billion had been earmarked for allowances for front line healthcare workers.

Elgeyo Marakwet received over Sh91 million including Sh57.2 million national government grant and another Sh4.2 million and Sh30 million Kenya Devolution Support Programme (KDSP) donations from Denmark’s development cooperation (DANIDA) in 2020.

But records show spending of nearly 6.5 million on non-covid-19 items.

How Elgeyo Marakwet County lost over KSh7M Covid-19 funds!

From 40-inch Television sets to tents, umbrellas, and plastic seats and to banners, shirts, branding, and a laundry machine among other non-covid-19 emergency related items dominated the county’s Sh91 million conditional grants and donations extended to the county to mitigate the pandemic, suppliers of non-covid-19
related protective equipment reaped.

The Sh57 million Elgeyo Marakwet received as a conditional grant from the national government was part of Sh5 billion emergency funds to fight Covid-19.

Locals who sought services in the county’s hospitals during the period recount difficult moments accessing protective materials such as masks.

Peter Kibet recalls how he was forced to buy face masks for his ailing grandmother in September 2022 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I thought the government had equipped hospitals with basic protective gear, especially for vulnerable groups during the period but I was shocked to discover that they were being sold within the hospital,” said Kibet.

A patient, John (not his real name) said he suffered Covid-19 during the pandemic but received no support and ended up paying money for Personal Protective Equipment apart from his treatment.

“I was treated at Tambach sub-county hospital where the Covid-19 isolation was situated. I was required to pay for everything including the PPEs used by the doctors who treated me. I was lucky to survive but it was the worst experience,” he recalls.

He said he did not see the TV sets reported to have been procured to entertain patients in isolation wards during the period.

“Of these, Sh5 billion from the National Government through the Ministry of Health was to be utilized towards quarantine and isolation expenditure, another Sh2.36 billion for allowances for front line healthcare workers Sh350 million that was given by Denmark’s development cooperation (Danida) as a grant went to support Level Two and Three health facilities in the fight against the pandemic and Sh5.39 billion from counties own source,”
a Controller of Budget report said in part.

In the list of items are commodities such as refined fuels which gobbled up Sh1.5 million and a similar amount on toiletries.

A 2021-2022 Auditor General’s preliminary report indicates that some Covid-19 equipment purchased by the county during the period were lying idle.

“Examination of the documents provided for audit revealed that the County Executive paid an amount of Sh8,800,000 and Sh1,395,620 for the supply and delivery of hospital theater equipment for the Kaptarakwa Sub-county hospital and laundry machine to Tambach Sub-county hospital respectively.

“However, physical verification carried out in the month of November 2022 revealed that the theater equipment had been lying idle for six months, while the laundry machine had been lying idle for 13 months and had not been installed,” the Auditor General said in the preliminary report.

According to the Auditor General’s qualified opinion, the value for money on the expenditure of Sh10,195,620 on specialized health equipment and machinery during the Covid-19 pandemic period could not be confirmed.

The Controller of Budget report presented to Parliament in late 2020 reveals how Elgeyo Marakwet procured banners and shirts worth Sh652,000, catering services at Sh232,000, 40-inch TV sets at Sh240,000, a laundry machine (Sh1.4 million), stationery and branding materials (Sh161,000) among other questionable expenses.

The county built a Sh16 million oxygen plant at the Iten County Referral Hospital as part of its response to Covid–19–related complications.

A visit indicated that the oxygen plant was operationalized in January 2023.

“We are not yet there but we shall continue progressively to address all the challenges facing our health sector,” Elgeyo Marakwet Governor says.

County executive committee member for health Michael Kibiwott says he was yet to receive reports on Covid- 19 spending in the county.

“I have no sufficient information on the allegations of misappropriation of funds. The previous administration was in charge of managing the Covid-19 funds. We are a transparent department and we ask authorities to probe claims of misuse during the Covid-19 period.” Kibiwott said.

He however indicated that the county was generating its own oxygen after the operationalization of the plant established thanks to the Covid-19 funds.

The health CECM said the oxygen plant supplies oxygen to all sub-county health facilities.

“We no longer rely on neighboring counties for oxygen. Through support by partners, we have now advanced the oxygen systems through more cylinders and connecting each bed with oxygen and we no longer struggle to get oxygen to a bed during an emergency,” Kibiwott explained.

He said support with partners has helped the county secure more oxygen storage cylinders to store medical oxygen from its plant in the last one year.

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