Prime News Kenya

Authorities tight-lipped over theft of medical equipment

Posted By : Justice Bimpeh

Senior public officials could be behind two brazen attempts to steal donated medical equipment, one of which was successful, even as government bureaucrats dealing with investigations evade questions on the incident that could shut the door on future philanthropic acts towards Kenya.

The incident has become the shame that nobody wants to talk about, as senior government bureaucrats aware of the progress in the investigations are reluctant to comment. The loud silence is also an indication that there could be instructions to keep silent on the scandal.

No government official contacted by the Nation in the last six days is ready to go on the record, as our calls, text messages and requests for interviews have largely gone unanswered.

The successful theft involved equipment donated by Alibaba Group founder and billionaire businessman Jack Ma, while the thwarted attempt saved a consignment from the Chinese government.

A local daily last week detailed how detectives stopped an attempt by two local logistics companies from stealing China’s donation in collusion with Ministry of Health officials.

Two public officers have since confirmed to the Nation that senior government officials were involved in both attempts, and hinted that investigations will likely remain a closely guarded secret.

Being junior officers, they declined to come on the record for fear of reprisal and intimidation.

For the last six days, public officers have consistently evaded questions that could lift the lid on one of the most daring thefts Kenya has witnessed in recent times.

Officers from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) last week directed our team to their colleagues at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and denied having any information on the progress of the matter.

The JKIA branch of the DCI handles only crimes committed within the aerodrome’s boundaries, an indication that both thefts occurred within their jurisdiction.

DCI boss George Kinoti has not picked several calls or responded to our messages in the past week.

On Friday, the JKIA team denied investigating any incident involving the theft of donated medical equipment.

Ministry of Health Cabinet Secretary over the weekend indicated that he was in a meeting when we called, but is yet to respond.

Health Director-General Patrick Amoth declined to comment, and referred the Nation to Principal Secretary Susan Mochache. The PS is yet to return any of the several calls, or to text messages sent to her known mobile phone number.

On whether the theft risks affecting future donations to Kenya, Foreign Affairs PS Ambassador Kamau Macharia said it posed no such threat.

The Foreign Affairs PS said his ministry’s involvement ended after it handed over the items donated by China to the Health ministry.

“There are no potential diplomatic issues. Those things belong to the government once they have been handed over to government. Yes, you can call me tomorrow though I am not the right person to talk to (about the theft). That is for the Ministry of Health,” Mr Macharia said.

The theft comes as Kenya struggles to acquire testing kits and personal protective gear for health workers, both of which were in the donated consignments.

Failure to allocate adequate funds for testing kits has also seen Kenya record a backlog in testing, as over 5,000 samples taken are yet to be tested. And this amid a global shortage of testing kits.

Source : Daily Nation