KSh40 billion set aside – but not spent – for Kenya’s coronavirus response

Kenya’s treasury has spent KSh40 billion “in response to the coronavirus outbreak since the first patient was reported on March 12”, claimed an article on the front page of the Star newspaper on 23 April 2020.

“This means that over the past 40 days, the government has been spending on average Sh1 billion a day.”

The newspaper then corrected the claim online, and apologised. It turns out the treasury has allocated KSh40 billion to fight the Covid-19 outbreak – but Kenya is yet to spend that amount.

The Star changed its headline from “Treasury has spent Sh40bn on Covid-19” to “Sh40bn allocated to corona response”.

And the editor added a note to the article: “An earlier version of this story indicated that the Treasury CS said that the money had been spent. It has since been updated to clarify that while some of the money has been disbursed, the Treasury CS said the Sh40 billion is the full allocation for tackling Covid-19.”

Article spreads on social media

But that hasn’t stopped the claim from spreading on social media. The hashtag #40billion trended on Twitter in Kenya, with some expressing disappointment at the misappropriation of funds.

And a screenshot of the Star’s tweet about the article has been doing the rounds on Facebook, with a similar response.

“So far 40billion has been used to combat covid 19 how sensible is that,” one user posted. “Just asking is their covid 19 in Kenya or it is another scam so that they could milk dry the ordinary Kenyan??? … Uhuru Kenyattas gvt is corrupt in every way possible.”

Another said: “Every day Uhuru Kenyatta Government  is spending KSh1 billion for COVID19, It’s  a shame  !!!!.40 billions have been spent already in 40 days. Uhuru kenyatta you’re a useless fellow going to jail soon.”

KSh18 billion spent so far

On 22 April Ukur Yatani, cabinet secretary for the treasury, tweeted an explanation of Kenya’s coronavirus budget.

“National treasury’s response to Covid-19 pandemic cuts across all sectors: Health, water, etc,” he said.

“So far Ksh 18B has been disbursed for various interventions (health, Boreholes within slums, cash transfers etc). More resources to be released from Friday with passage of the supplementary budget.”

The Star’s apology

In its amended article, the Star corrected its claim at length.

“In the print edition of the Star today, it stated that the government had spent Sh40 billion fighting the coronavirus,” it said.

“The correct position is that the Treasury has allocated KSh40.3 billion to manage Covid-19 but this money has not yet been disbursed. The treasury has however already disbursed KSh13 billion for SME support and payment of pending bills.

 “The Minister was clear that the funds were budgeted but yet spent. The Star regrets the error and apologises to the CS for any embarrassment caused.”

Yatani posted the corrected article on his Twitter account. – Grace Gichuhi


 

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