NAIROBI – In a report released Tuesday, Human Rights Watch accused the Kenyan government of improperly running a cash transfer program designed to help the poor during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rights group says the money went instead to people associated with officials and politicians.
Anette Okumu, 42, lost her business due to COVID-19. She and her neighbors in Nairobi’s Kibera neighborhood signed up for a government cash-assistance program in April to help feed their nine children.
Okumu says her husband was unemployed and she really needed this money because she has a child who has sickle cell anemia and the disease requires her to feed her child healthy. Okumu says she was hoping to get help from the government. She says she didn’t get the money – but others did.
Last May, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the Treasury Department to release around $ 100 million to support the most vulnerable people in the country for at least eight months.
Human Rights Watch head of East Africa, Otsieno Namwaya, says money never served its intended purpose.
“Most of the households that were supposed to get government support never got anything,” he said. “The few who got something didn’t get the amount the government promised them. The majority received 3,000-4,000 schillings over a period of eight months. The government said it will send a total of 35,000 over the eight month period. ”
The Washington-based human rights group says its investigators spoke to 136 government officials and residents of Nairobi for their eight-month study.
The researchers found that the money 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 said about $ 4 million was given out to help nearly 100,000 Kenyans in a poor part of Nairobi for a month.
However, investigators said they were unable to verify the identities and addresses of more than 97,000 suspected recipients. Her report concluded that “the legality and use of the $ 4 million has not been verified.”
Namwaya says most of the money went instead to friends and family of officials and the employees of certain government agencies.
“Politicians and government officials actually made sure that officials, office workers, and relatives benefited from the money when the evidence suggested these people didn’t deserve to get the money. While the people who really made the money, the people who starved up to four days a week didn’t get the money, ”he said.
The program was implemented by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection. VOA asked the chief secretary of the ministry for comment but received no response.
Human Rights Watch calls on the Kenyan authorities to investigate the problem and to fully review and strengthen internal mechanisms for the future implementation of such programs.