Social protection and health dockets take up lion’s share of project

Kibera slum in Nairobi. Government measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 have disrupted informal labour markets and led to huge income loss for many low-income households. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG The Health ministry and Department of Social Protection gobbled up nearly two-thirds of the development expenditure in April after the Treasury cancelled funding to low-priority projects as it mobilised cash to fight the spread of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Disbursement to capital projects in the first full month Kenya went into partial trade lockdowns and travel restrictions fell to the lowest level since the Jubilee administration took power in mid-2013, according to Exchequer statistics published by the Treasury.

Some Sh14.17 billion was channelled into projects undertaken by State ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in April, a drop of Sh7.21 billion from a month earlier and Sh3.95 billion a year ago.

Development expenditure by the Health ministry, which was racing to put in place infrastructure to contain the spread of the contagious virus, amounted to Sh5.62 billion or 38.6 percent of the total development spend.

Funding of projects by the ministry from the Exchequer started rising in February when it was tasked to equip the 120-bed Covid-19 isolation centre at Nairobi county-run Mbagathi Hospital, a unit which was initially set to be a maternity wing.

Afya House’s project expenditure bumped up from Sh2.26 billion in January to Sh4.84 billion in February, Sh4.57 billion in March, and touching the highest pole in April since the onset of devolution that transferred most healthcare services to the counties.

The Social Protection Department, tasked with affairs of the elderly and other vulnerable groups in the society, was on the other hand, given Sh3.997 billion or more than a quarter of the total capital funds disbursement in April.

The elderly are seen as the most vulnerable in the fight against the global pandemic partly due to their low body immunity, with President Uhuru Kenyatta directing public servants aged 58 and above to take leave from work stations.

The State has also said that it is sending the poor in some of the slums in Nairobi cash through their mobile phones (the handouts fall under recurrent expenditure).

The Health ministry, which is in charge of protocols for stemming the spread of the virus and its alleviating attendant shocks, has in recent months been under sharp public scrutiny over expenditure of cash it has received to fight the global Covid-19 pandemic from taxpayers […]

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