June 7th: Cabinet Secretary for Health Sicily Kariuki in a meeting with Global Fund officials led by Grants Inspector General Mr Mouhamadou-Diagne
By Gatonye Gathura
Two senior officers at the Ministry of Health have until Saturday to repay about Sh6 million stolen from the Global Fund TB programme.
Kenya also has until the end of September to known whether Global Fund will take more punitive measures to safeguard its funds in the country.
The theft was reported in a February Global Fund audit which found two imprest holders at the TB programme culpable for the loss of Sh5, 766, 200 and want it repaid by 30th June.
The fund in the report, endorsed by the government also wants verifiable assurances by 30th September that measures have been put in place to stop any further leakage of its funds.
Early this month the head of audit at the fund Inspector General Mouhamadou Diagne was in Nairobi over concerns about the safety of their grants to Kenya.
A statement posted by the health ministry following Mr Diagne meeting with Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said he had assured Kenya of continued funding to malaria and HIV programmes.
However the statement was quite about the fate of future funding for tuberculosis.
The audit indicates the lost money was part of its October 2015 to December 2017 disbursement to Kenya.
The loss is confirmed barely months after Kenya had completed refunding some Sh120 million to Global Fund following an earlier theft.
In its 2017, ‘Recoveries Report for the period ending 30 June 2016’ Global Fund said the Sh120 million refund had brought to a closure matters of financial impropriety within its grants to Kenya.
The new theft and the dispatch to Nairobi of the fund’s senior most auditor, sources at the ministry say indicate the donors’ strategy of ‘pay-back’ stolen monies is not working.
In August former Cabinet Secretary for Health Cleopa Mailu told the Parliamentary Committee on Health, that Kenya was refunding Sh160 million stolen from the Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI).
The money had been stolen from the GAVI supported childhood immunization programme and lend to suspension of vaccines’ funding to the country.
Although CS Kariuki, is upbeat that Global Fund is satisfied with the ministry’s performance with HIV and malaria funds the donor paints a different picture.
In the audit report, the Global Fund confirms Kenya remains in a black list of 24 high risk countries for its high corruption index.
Kenya, the report says is now classified as a ‘challenging operating environment’ where the fund puts in place extra measures to strengthen fiscal and oversight controls.
Some of the controls being implemented between last and next year include a ‘zero cash’ policy whereby fund recipients do not receive lump-sum disbursements in advance.
Instead funds will only be made available after appropriate documentation has been provided to the satisfaction of the donor or their agent.
Alternatively money will be paid directly to the suppliers and not through third parties, a system which has been exploited by government bureaucrats in Kenya.
But despite the safeguards, the audit shows the two ministry officials, still managed to easily siphon off the funds.
Sidestepping, the electronic money payment system the two culprits had resulted to paying imprests and other allowances in cash despite earlier warning by the donor.
The report says the money was lost through fictitious meeting and workshops some that never took place.
Money was shown to have been paid to ‘ghost’ participants who could not be traced by the auditors.
“The auditor found that 21 per cent of people who were recorded as having attended various TB activities, and who had received per diems and transport allowances, had not actually been present at the activities,” says the report.
Last year the US Government had suspended funding to the ministry and specifically for workshops and conferences, identified as the biggest conduit for corrupt activities.
“We have temporarily suspended technical support to the Ministry of Heath because of concerns about accounting processes and procedures that revolve around corruption,” US ambassador Robert Godec had said.
There is no record showing any legal or disciplinary action has been taken against culpable health officials apart from some being asked to refund the lost monies while still on the payroll.
Audit available here: https://www.theglobalfund.org/media/7169/oig_gf-oig-18-004_report_en.pdf?u=636537832580000000
At a glance
Early this month Global Fund top auditor visits Nairobi
Two health officials asked to refund stolen Sh6 million
Money paid to ghost meeting attendees
Money to be repaid by 30th June
Kenya to confirm new fraud control measures by 30th September
Kenya put in black list of Global Fund
Kenya had repaid Sh120 million to Global Fund stolen in 2012
Currently repaying Sh160 million to GAVI Vaccine Alliance
Health CS says all is well