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Are devolved units doing enough to curb misuse of funds?

The unfolding story about ‘Oxygen Scandal’ carried in the Daily Nation of 15th April 2021 unravels amidst call by the Office of the Auditor General to have investigative agencies probe how county governments have used monies allocated to them to fight the Covid 19 pandemic.  Among issues that the Auditor General has raised around county governments’ deployment of financial resources to fight the pandemic include; flouting of procurement laws, noncompetitive bidding for Covid 19 pandemic related supplies, handing out of tenders to non-qualified bidders and failures to undertake market surveys. These are among some of the ills that have dogged the county government’s Covid 19 pandemic containment measures. Amidst the unsettling questions arising from malpractices of the county governments in their fight against Covid 19 pandemic is the spiraling controversies surrounding the country’s oxygen readiness.

A majority of the county governments have not been able to scale up their production and distribution of oxygen to public health facilities despite spending millions to revamp or establish new oxygen production plants. Oxygen readiness of the country has come under sharp focus because it provides one of the most critical supplies dues to the recent spike in the number of Covid 19 patients requiring critical care in the health facilities. National government has been able to disburse billions of Kenya shillings including conditional grants to help the county governments cope with the challenges which have been occasioned by the Covid 19 pandemic. The Auditor General’s report also reveals that many county government funded projects have stalled across the country for a wide range of reasons including embezzlement of public funds.

As we probe how devolved funds have been put to use to accelerate socio-economic development within counties, we must question the counties’ accountability processes and practices to avoid wastage of public funds. While national government under the leadership of President Uhuru Kenyatta has sustained the fight against corruption, county government seem lackluster in their fight against the deeply entrenched culture of graft. National anti-graft campaigns success is contingent upon proactivity and readiness of the counties to tackle the issue of corruption. It is not the first time that the office of the Auditor General is flagging corruption within the devolved units. These recent reports about counties’ inadequate accounting of how they have used the Covid 19 mitigation funds does not give a good picture to the public.

Devolved units should not be conduits through which corrupt public officials enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayers. Governors must work hand in hand with the national government to curb corruption and bring to book, persons that are illegally benefitting from public resources at the expense of the citizens.  

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