Deputy President William Ruto defended the government’s handling of the reported loss of Sh5.2 billion at the ministry of Health but said any culprits would be punished.
Mr Ruto said the government should not be accused of corruption before facts have been established and added the reported loss was based on a draft audit report.
“The audit was conducted by the government to ensure no funds were misappropriated. If people will be found culpable, firm and decisive action will be taken,” Mr Ruto said.
“We are not going to protect any individual or company but we will not also accept mob justice. We don’t want to be condemned on the basis of a draft audit report that was initiated by the government. We are not for corruption.”
Speaking at Sibanga Primary School in Cherenganyi Constituency, Trans Nzoia County, the deputy president said the government would press on with programmes at Afya House that have come under scrutiny following the audit report.
“The free maternity programme will go on because it saves a lot of lives,” he said.
Mr Ruto’s defence of the government was in line with a similar statement by Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu that the ministry had yet to respond to the audit queries and should be given time to do that.
And even as Mr Ruto assured Kenyans of investigations, the opposition continued to pile pressure on the government, saying it had lost the moral authority to lead.
Saturday, Cord leader Raila Odinga said President Uhuru Kenyatta was not serious about the war on corruption.
“The President knows those involved in the Sh5.2 billion scandal at the Ministry of Health and he cannot give excuses for not taking action,” the opposition leader said.
He was speaking at the burial of Clara Busolo Kibukosya, the grandmother of his daughter-in-law at Mwironje Village, Khayega Location in Shinyalu Constituency, Kakamega.
On Friday, Mr Odinga linked President Kenyatta’s family to the financial scandal at the Ministry of Health.
He said one of the companies that benefited from the transactions was associated with the President’s sister and cousin while another was linked to his close friends and confidants.
Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale and Nominated MP Oburu Oginga asked Kenyans to vote out Jubilee for failing to arrest and prosecute senior government officials implicated in corruption and other scandals.
“Kenyans should teach Jubilee a lesson by voting the government out power over the stolen billions of public money that could have been spent to buy drugs and save lives,” Mr Oginga said.
Ndhiwa MP Agostino Neto said opposition unity would help to wrestle power from Jubilee.
Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya said he would support Mr Odinga in his bid to become the country’s fifth president next year.
“I have been called names for supporting Mr Odinga but I know he is the only person with the capacity to bring about positive changes in the country,” Mr Oparanya said.
The county boss said provision of health services in the region had been badly affected after the government delayed releasing Sh300 million.
“Jubilee is busy frustrating devolved governments by holding onto funds allocated for development projects and other services. They want to create an impression that devolution has failed,” he said.
Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi and the Kenya National Union of Nurses demanded swift action against the perpetrators of the alleged theft in the Health Ministry.
Speaking at separate events, Mr Mudavadi and union officials said the scandal was an indication that the government did not care for its people.
“Jubilee is denying stealing the amount meant to save women and their children. The amount quoted can buy 10 mobile health clinics for each of the 47 counties,” the ANC chief said.
“A government that steals from vulnerable Kenyans is only wishing them death.”
In Kisumu, the nurses’ union Secretary-General Seth Panyako said the amount would have been enough to pay all Kenyan nurses for six years if a collective bargaining agreement between them and the government was implemented.
He said the wave of strikes by health workers would be a thing of the past if funds were put to proper use.
“If this money was used constructively, it would take care of Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital’s budget for a year, supplying medicine and catering for patients’ bills. The Sh5 billion would have taken care of health dockets of five counties for a year,” Mr Panyako said.
“Most counties allocate little amount to their health departments because they receive peanuts from the National Treasury. Imagine the difference the Sh5 billion that has gone into people’s pockets would have done.”
The union demanded that the National Health Services Board be in charge of National Referral hospitals and draws its budget from the National Assembly.
“This will ensure no public money goes to Afya House for remuneration,” he said.
“The money ending up at the ministry is a lot and that is why there is surplus for some pockets.”
Reported by Angela Oketch, Raphael Wanjala, Benson Amadala, Pius Maundu, David Muchui, Agnes Oboo, Philip Abwayo, Irene Mwendwa, Oscar Kakai and Farouk Mwabege