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Missing Sh18bn: EACC probes text books, e-Citizen project

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The anti-graft agency has exposed high-profile cases under investigation, including a Sh18 billion probe involving three powerful ministries.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission revealed that it is investigating Sh10 billion procurement of textbooks for public schools by the Ministry of Education and Sh5.6 billion alleged fraud and embezzlement of funds by Treasury involving the e-Citizen platform.

The agency led by retired Bishop Eliud Wabukala also revealed that it is investigating allegations of Sh2.4 billion fraud and irregular compensation for acquisition of houses for senior government officers in the Ministry of Interior.

The revelations signal trouble for influential figures in the three ministries after President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged that graft kingpins will pay dearly for every pocketed shilling.

“To those engaging in fraud and abuse of office, please listen to me keenly: You can run but you cannot hide. We will catch up with you, and make you pay dearly for every coin stolen from Kenyans,” Uhuru promised on December 12, Jamhuri Day.

In its latest annual report seen by the Star, the EACC says it’s investigating a total of 1,510 cases.

According to the report, the watchdog agency is investigating Sh1.5 billion irregular procurement at the Kenya Ports Authority Pension scheme, Sh120 million alleged loss of public funds and irregular procurement at Kemri and Sh60 million illegal transfer of public property to a private person at NSSF.

Read: Sh5.3 billion for medical cover, books withheld

In a case of the hunter becoming the hunted, the EACC is also investigating top officials of the Assets Recovery Agency over alleged Sh100 million embezzlement of funds.

ARA, which is headed by Muthoni Kimani, has been working with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to recover proceeds of crime running into billions of shillings.

Tens of county governments are also under probe and heads are likely to roll in the new year.

For instance, the EACC says it is are investigating the Mandera county government over allegations of irregular awards of contracts amounting to Sh1.8 million.

Targeted suspects in the alleged textbook procurement scandal in the Ministry of Education are still unclear.

However, the purchase of textbooks by the government came to the fore in January this year after then Education CS Fred Matiang’i decided to facilitate distribution of textbooks by government directly to schools.

Previously, the cash was wired directly to schools, which would then make their own arrangements to buy books.

Ironically, the Matiang’i move was intended to reduce procurement costs by nearly Sh13 billion, according to government estimates.

According to the Education ministry, 33 million textbooks would cost only Sh7.5 billion — not the Sh21.4 billion under the previous model that put schools in charge.

The initiative targeted 600,000 learners in Standards 7 and 8 and Forms 1 to 4.

In phase one of the textbooks distribution project this year, secondary schools were supplied with English, Kiswahili, mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology textbooks.

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Primary schools received English, Kiswahili, mathematics and science textbooks.

he e-Citizen platform, which had been disowned by the Treasury, is an online portal through which the government provides essential services.

These include applications for passports, driving licences, business registration certificates, vehicle logbooks and title deeds.

Unbeknownst to Kenyans, the huge sums collected were going into an M-Pesa paybill account set up by a local company.

By the time the government asked Safaricom to stop Goldrock Capital Limited from collecting the money in 2014, more than Sh5.6 billion had been paid through the e-Citizen platform.

Read: State releases Sh29.5 billion towards free Secondary education

The EACC says in its end-year report that 154 cases are ready for prosecution, while 183 files on corruption and economic crimes have already been forwarded to the DPP.

Among the cases the EACC says it has completed investigating, is the the Sh3.2 billion Ruaraka land scandal. Its recommendations remain tightly guarded.

The Senate Public Accounts Committee had indicted former Education PS Matiang’i, PS Belio Kipsang and National Land Commission boss Muhammad Swazuri.

The report was not adopted by the House.

Other concluded investigations include a Sh350 million probe into alleged irregular hire of trucks, bulldozers and shovels for garbage collection by the County Government of Mombasa.

A Sh383 million probe into alleged tax evasion involving a private firm in a National Youth Service contract is also complete.

Others are a Sh300 million irregular purchase of a printing machine at the Kenya Bureau of Standards and allegations of Sh18 million irregular hiking of legal fees paid to a law firm by Kenya Pipeline Company.

It has also emerged that Makueni county, seen as the model of progress among devolved units, is also under probe.

The EACC says its has finished investigations into a Sh10 million alleged fraud regarding a medical cover at the Makueni County Assembly.

According to the data, the County Government of West Pokot headed by John Lonyangapuo is under two separate investigations.

One involves the alleged loss of public funds in construction of a tourist hotel in Kapenguria amounting to Sh352 million.

The other is Sh351 million alleged irregular payment for an incomplete project and irregular variation of a contract concerning construction of Agricultural Training College in Kapenguria.

The County government of Kitui is under probe over allegations of Sh1.3 billion procurement irregularities in the construction of river drifts

and road works.

Other counties under probe include Marsabit (Sh300 million), Kisumu (206 million), Isiolo (65 million), Murang’a (56 million), Machakos (132 million).

More: Schools will get books directly from government in 2018 – Matiang’i

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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