USA suspends aid to Kenya Health Ministry over graft

Ambassador Bob Godec in Kisumu, Kenya (Twitter / @BobGodec)

The United States government has announced that it will suspend direct financial support to Kenya’s Ministry of Health because of graft allegations and lack of transparency.

In a letter to the Kenyan government, USAID Kenya Contracting Officer Brian Woody said that support for salaries and wages, operations, travel, meetings and workshops have been suspended. The suspension is to the tune of Ksh 2.1 billion (USD 20.3 million).

US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec said the US government was concerned that money meant for health care was not reaching the intended people at the grassroots. “The US taxpayers want to see that their money is spent appropriately and go into the right causes,” he told the media.

The ambassador said the US will resume funding once the Ministry of Health takes steps to improve its accounting procedures. He clarified that this had nothing to do with the forthcoming elections in Kenya.

It is not clear what triggered the latest move by the US. However, last year, there were reports that large sums of money had been misappropriated in the health ministry. An internal audit report estimated Ksh 5 billion (USD 48.4m) was lost but the ministry insisted the amount was only Ksh 3 billion (USD 29m).

This development also comes at a time when Kenya has just announced a new strategy approach in the fight against HIV/Aids. Godec says the suspension of financial support will not affect thousands of Kenyans who receive anti-retroviral drugs through US support.

The Kenyan government last week introduced a drug for prevention of the HIV virus, for people at risk of contracting the disease, and introduced a self-testing kit.

The drug, Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), will be given for free to people with multiple sexual partners, people who have had sexually transmitted diseases, addicts who inject drugs, sex workers, and those who do not use condoms consistently.

The Kenya National Aids and STI Control programme announced that for the next five years, an estimated 200,000 Kenyans will be put on PrEP, which will cost the government about Ksh. 30 billion.

The self-test can be used in private and gives the user the privilege of being the first to know of their HIV status. The self-test kit has been introduced to help reach an estimated 400,000 Kenyans suspected to be having HIV but who are yet to be tested formally.

Cleophas Mailu, the Health Cabinet Secretary, downplayed the USAID suspension of funding  saying it will not affect health services. In a statement on Tuesday, he noted the suspension only affects administrative programmes, not service delivery, and that it may be temporary.

“Consequently, we assure Kenyans that stock-outs or non-availability of medical supplies will not be experienced,” the Cabinet Secretary said.


By Moses Wasamu