“We are concerned”: Bishops in Kenya Over Alleged Misuse of COVID-19 Emergency Fund

Bishop John Oballa Owaa (centre) flanked by Bishops Martin Kivuva (left) and Bishop Alfred Rotich (right) at a Press Briefing in Nairobi, Kenya.
Credit: Public Domain

Catholic Bishops in the East African nation of Kenya have raised concerns over the alleged misappropriation of the over KES.1 billion (US$10 million) COVID-19 Emergency Fund that has been so far raised by well-wishers and corporate firms in view of cushioning vulnerable Kenyans against the impacts of restrictions due to the pandemic.  

“As a Church ... we are concerned by the reports that some funds meant for the pandemic containment appear to be misused,” the Vice-Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Bishop John Oballa Owaa said Sunday, May 3 at the end of the televised Mass at the Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi.

“We appeal to the Government to ensure that the funds available are used solely for the purpose of fighting the pandemic and returning the country to normalcy,” Bishop Oballa added, reading the collective statement of the Bishops in Kenya.

On April 30, one of Kenya’s daily newspaper, The Standard  quoted a government document indicating that the country’s Ministry of Health (MOH) had spent KES.1.3 billion (US$13 million) since the outbreak of the pandemic around mid-March.

A breakdown of the funds donated by the World Bank for COVID-19 Emergency Response indicated that KES.42 million (US$420,000.00) was used for leasing 15 ambulances at the cost KES.2.8 million (US$280,000.00) each, KES.4 million (US$40,000.00) for tea and snacks, and KES.2 million (US$20,000.00) for airtime.

The revelations attracted angry reactions from a section of Kenyans who, through online forums, expressed their criticism of implicated government officials as being opportunistic.

During his Labour Day address, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta dismissed the claims  of misappropriation of COVID-19 emergency kitty, assuring Kenyans that the money will be audited “to the last cent.”

In the two-page statement availed to ACI Africa, the Bishops in Kenya highlight the plight of the vulnerable citizens such as children, women, and people living with disabilities and exhort parents to “to take extra care of their children, including guarding them against harmful Internet content.”

Currently, there is an increase of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in our society, the Bishops note and appeal to “spouses to gain a heart of love, understanding, respect, and patience for each other, especially during this time of the pandemic.”

Reading the collective statement, Bishop Oballa who also serves as the Chairman of KCCB’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) appealed to the government to support faith-based medical facilities in their fight against COVID-19 because doing so “will supplement Government's efforts in containing the disease at the earliest opportunity possible.”

“We request that Faith-based Facilities, most of which serve in hard-to-reach populations in Arid and Semi-arid Land (ASAL) and Informal Settlements, be included in the distribution of PPEs, and also that their staff be considered for access to the Government Covid-19 treatment and isolation Facilities for Healthcare Workers,” the 61-year-old Bishop of Ngong Diocese appealed.

Terming the damage and loss occasioned by ongoing heavy rains in the country as heartbreaking, the Kenyan Prelate, on behalf of the Catholic Bishops in Kenya, noted that going by increasing deaths, displacement of people and loss of property from natural disasters, “we all have to reflect deeper on our disaster preparedness so as to minimize loss of lives whenever tragedies happen.”

“We truly thank our Medical staff in particular for the enduring love for this country. Our hope, moving forward, is in their hands with the help or God,” the Bishop noted and added, “We also thank many other people in the line of duty and whose work is complementary to the Medics, such as the Media, Security and Food Suppliers, without whom we will be losing hope against the pandemic.”

The Kenyan Prelate invited all Christians and Kenyans to join the Bishops in “praying for our beloved Country and especially for those who are in the frontline to save lives where disasters have occurred and our Medics taking risks as they treat patients, including those infected and affected by the Coronavirus.”

There have been at least 490 reported cases of COVID-19 in Kenya; 24 people have died and 173 have recovered from the disease.

 


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]