The official audit report on the alleged loss of funds at the Ministry of Health will be ready in a week.
Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu also admitted the ministry had to take the painful decision of refunding to donors Sh160 million that could not be accounted for to save children from missing out on essential vaccines.
Dr Mailu called for patience, saying the report, being finalised by a team from the Treasury, will reveal whether the funds were prudently spent.
The CS however said the audit covered Sh3.1 billion and not the Sh5.2 billion reported by the local media based on a leaked report.
“That is the figure in our books of accounts,” Dr Maillu told the Senate Health Committee chaired by Dr Wilfred Machage (Migori) at Parliament Buildings on Tuesday. “But this doesn’t mean we are saying the money was misappropriated.”
Dr Mailu said investigative agencies were working to resolve the matter and underscored the importance of its quick conclusion.
The CS said he will only take action for any malpractice after receiving the complete report, which is expected to be delivered to him on Friday.
“I could not act on an interim report, where auditees had not been given a chance to respond to issues being raised,” said Dr Mailu.
The planned transfer of the auditor who carried out the audit, Mr Benard Muchere, also raised questions with the committee demanding to know why the ministry wanted him moved.
Senators were concerned that the Health Principal Secretary, Dr Nicholas Muraguri, had requested Treasury to transfer the auditor just before the report that indicated loss of funds meant for various activities, including maternity services, came into the public domain.
“Why did you ask for the transfer of the auditor just four months after he was posted to the ministry,” Dr Machage asked.
Dr Muraguri, however denied pushing for the transfer.
As the ministry’s accounting officer, the PS termed the accusations levelled against the MoH as straightforward, saying all the procurement and payments were done in accordance with the law.
“Audit queries do not mean loss of funds,” said Dr Muraguri. “Whatever that was paid for was delivered and there is documentation to prove that.”
Dr Mailu however warned that if there is evidence to suggest criminal responsibility, the government will take appropriate action.
“The fact that we have to repay this money is a painful experience,” said the CS. “I don’t have details of who was paid but we are looking at the matter.”
The money was part of Sh990.3 billion ($9.9 million) given by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (Gavi), an entity that supplies vaccines globally, in 2007 for the 2008-2012 period.
Dr Mailu sought to assure the public that there was no shortage of vaccines in the country as Gavi has never stopped working with his ministry to improve healthcare.
He expressed optimism that those behind the mess that has threatened to erode donor agencies’ confidence in Kenya would be punished.
The minister however admitted that poor record-keeping was to blame for the sorry state of affairs as most of the funds were spent on motorcycles, bicycles and cash sent to support health operations at the then districts.
“I agree we have to do something about documentation,” said Dr Mailu. “If we can buy motorcycles and not account for them, then we have a problem.”
Committee members present during the questioning of the two senior-most officials in the ministry included Senators Zipporah Kittony (nominated), Abdirahman Hassan (Wajir), Wilfred Lesan (Bomet), Godliver Omondi (nominated), Beth Mugo and Mshenga Mvita (nominated).