NAIROBI – Human Rights Watch in a report released on Tuesday accused the Kenyan government of failing to properly handle a cash transfer program aimed at helping the poor during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rights group says the money instead went to officials and people associated with politicians.
Annette Okumu, 42, lost her business due to COVID-19. She and her neighbors in the Kibera section of Nairobi registered for a government cash assistance program in April to help feed their nine children.
Okumu says that her husband was unemployed, and she really needed that money because she has a child who has sickle cell anemia and because of the disease she has to feed her child healthy food. Okumu says he hoped he would get help from the government. She says she didn’t get the money – but the others did.
In May last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the Treasury to release $100 million to support the country’s most vulnerable people for at least eight months.
The head of Human Rights Watch in East Africa, Otsiano Namweya, says money never served its intended purpose.
“Most of the families that should have got support from the government never got anything,” he said. “Those who received some did not receive the amount that the government had sent them. Over a period of eight months the majority received 3,000 – 4,000 shillings. The government was saying that it was sending a total of 35,000 for a period of eight months. is.
The Washington-based rights group says its investigators spoke to 136 government employees and residents of Nairobi for its eight-month study.
The researchers found that the cash transfer program lacked transparency in many ways, from the registration process to the distribution of funds.
A report released by the Auditor General’s Office in April 2021 stated that some $4 million was disbursed for a month to help about 100,000 Kenyans in a poor section of Nairobi.
But investigators said they could not confirm the identities and addresses of more than 97,000 alleged recipients. Their report concluded “the legality and use of $4 million could not be verified.”
Instead, Namwaya says most of the money went to the officers’ friends and family and employees of some government agencies.
“Politicians and government officials actually ensured that official colleagues, office workers and relatives were benefiting from money when evidence showed that these people did not deserve the money. While those who really deserve money, those people who were going hungry even for four days a week were not getting money,” he said.
The program was run by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. The VOA reached out to the principal secretary of the ministry for comment, but did not receive any response.
Human Rights Watch is calling on the Kenyan authorities to investigate the issue and to comprehensively review and strengthen internal mechanisms to implement such programs in the future.