Accounting concerns prompt US to suspend aid to Kenya

10 May 17

The US has suspended $21m in aid to Kenya’s Ministry of Health due to concerns over “weak accounting procedures”.



In a statement published yesterday, the US Embassy in Kenya said that its decision would ensure that health care spending reaches those in need and protects US taxpayers’ money.

“We took this step because of ongoing concern about reports of corruption and weak accounting procedures at the ministry,” it said. “We are working with the ministry on ways to improve accounting and internal controls, and hope to restore the funding when appropriate progress is made.”

In October last year, a leaked internal audit report revealed that $50m had gone missing from the ministry in the previous financial year, including funds meant for maternity wards, with a number of senior officials implicated in the scandal.

In a statement responding to the suspension of aid, Kenya’s health ministry cited the issues raised by the audit and said it is taking measures to strengthen its financial management systems and address “internal control weaknesses”.

A number of other institutions, including Kenya’s National Audit Office and its Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission were undertaking independent investigations into that will “inform further action”, it added.

“We want to assure our development partners and Kenyans of the ministry’s commitment to prudent financial management and accountability of the resources put under the ministry’s stewardship,” health secretary Cleopa Mailu said.

He stressed the suspension only affects the US’ support for administration, and will not impact the availability of medicines, live-saving equipment or other health products or services.

The US agreed that the $21m represents only a “small portion” of the country’s annual $650m in health aid to Kenya, and that funding for health services and medications going directly to Kenyans, such as anti-retroviral therapy for 1 million people, will continue.

Kenya ranks 145th out of 176 in Transparency International’s index of corruption around the world – a worse performance than countries like Nigeria, notorious for endemic graft.

The country’s government has admitted to losing around a third of its national budget to corruption, equal to around $7bn last year.

Other recent high-profile graft scandals include millions of dollars stolen through fraudulent procurement from the country’s National Youth Service and its parent ministry, Kenya’s Ministry of Devolution and Planning.

The country’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, is under growing pressure to curb runaway corruption in the country ahead of a general election in August.

With Kenya’s history of violence following elections, fuelled by distrust in the state, corruption’s position at the top of the agenda is likely to increase concerns of more turbulence after the vote this summer. 

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