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Kenyan prosecutor orders probe of coronavirus payments

19 September 2020, MVT 22:05
(FILES) In this file photograph taken on March 18, 2020, health personnel measure the temperature of a visitor at the entrance of the Mbagathi Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. - The coronavirus has upended everyday life in the six months since the crisis was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). While our understanding of the new respiratory disease has steadily increased since it was first detected in China last year, what lies ahead over the next half-year remains unknown. (Photo by LUIS TATO / AFP)
19 September 2020, MVT 22:05

Kenya's chief public prosecutor, Noordin Haji, has ordered a probe into $71 million in "irregular procurement" linked to the coronavirus by the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA).

Hard-pressed Kenyan hospital staff have staged strikes to highlight what they say are scandalous practices by the authority, which purchases medication and equipment for the nation's public hospitals.

Three weeks ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta asked the national Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to investigate contracts granted to influential figures, including politicians, without respect for rules of public procurement.

Its report was submitted Friday to the prosecutor, who concluded that "irregular procurement and fraudulent payments" had been made totalling 7.8 billion Kenyan shillings (around $71 million).

Haji then instructed senior prosecutors "to undertake an independent and comprehensive review of the file" within two weeks, he said.

The EACC probe has already led to the suspension of KEMSA head Jonah Manjari and supply director Charles Juma.

Several Kenyan businessmen have already been accused of siphoning off around $400 million worth of public funds destined to pay for medical equipment needed in the battle against Covid-19.

KEMSA's overall coronavirus budget is not known.

The virus has infected at least 36,800 people in Kenya, which ranks 137 out of 180 countries on a corruption perception index compiled by the non-governmental organisation Transparency International.

Nairobi, Kenya | AFP

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