The icy winds of US President Donald Trump’s promise to cut overseas aid are wafting through humanitarian corridors in Kenya after suspension of Sh2.1 billion funding to the Health Ministry.
US Embassy in Nairobi said the unprecedented move has been triggered by reports of corruption and weak accounting procedures at the Ministry and need to protect American taxpayer money.
Trump’s administration suspended crucial financial support to activities at the ministry citing widespread corruption and misappropriation of funds at the health ministry.
US ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec defended his government’s move asserting it is in a bid to tame runaway corruption in the Ministry.
Speaking in Kisumu today, Godec (pictured) said the move came after that a lot of money was allegedly lost in the Kenyan health docket.
He said the withdrawal was only a technical suspension aimed at allowing the Kenyan Government to serve them with accounting and tracking system of funds allegedly misappropriated.
The ambassador said they want the Kenyan government to provide them with information regarding the concern of massive financial misappropriations in the ministry of health, including the funds channelled by the US.
“The US government only took the action following the concerns of accounting issues of funds. We want to see the American taxpayers money spent prudently,” said Godec, adding that they will later make public the amount of money which has been misappropriated.
Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga warned that the mess at the Ministry of Health could antagonize donor agencies that have been at the forefront financing key health programs like HIV/AIDs, Malaria, TB and maternal and child care unless it was addressed comprehensively and expeditiously with the criminals punished.
“The US government has taken the unfortunate step of suspending its support for Kenya’s health sector because of corruption in the parent ministry. This effectively puts to and end years of work that USAID through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS
Relief (PEPFAR) has done to combat the HIV/AIDS, he said in statement to newsrooms.
Nonetheless, Health CS Cleopa Mailu said the ministry is committed to prudent financial management and accountability of the resources placed under their stewardship.
Washington said freezing of funds will affect salaries and wages, domestic and international travel and procurement of supplies and equipment used at MoH.
ICT services including security and communications, financial services and grant management software have also been suspended.
Transport and logistics at the ministry have also been affected as fleet maintenance and fuel assistance have also been withdrawn.
However, America’s support for life-saving and essential health services, such as providing anti-retroviral therapy for a million Kenyans, is not affected by the suspension.
“We will continue to provide funding for health services and medications going directly to Kenyans.” said the US Embassy.
A letter to the government signed by Brian Woody, the USAid/Kenya and East Africa contracting officer says the services will only be reinstated after unspecified conditions are met.
He said those whose organisations are directly impacted by the suspension will receive a separate letter suspending their activities and assistance to the MoH.
“However, whether you receive a separate letter or not you are to refrain from any activities further specified in this letter and inform your contracting or agreement officer immediately if you do not receive the separate letter but you believe you and your programs are impacted,” said Woody.
He said those, whose activities are not identified in attachment, they have not been suspended.
They include participation in meetings such as technical working groups, coordination committees, steering committees, intergovernmental fora or other similar group with the MoH.
“Any activities conducted with the MoH during the period of suspension will not be reimbursed by the United States Government,” said Woody.
However, the US government has exempted from suspension a number of activities including procurement of commodities and equipment related to life-saving prevention and treatment, outbreak or emergency response capacity.
Other activities exempted are those that directly strengthen county health systems, surveillance and service delivery.
USAID will tomorrow morning hold a session to address or request for clarifications related to the suspension notice at Lord Erroll.
Kenya is the second biggest recipient of US aid in Africa after Egypt at Sh95 billion ($941 million) with a significant chunk channeled to the military and humanitarian agencies.