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Scanty information on Jack Ma's Covid-19 donations to Kenya

Saturday June 20 2020
donation

A donation to Kenya from Chinese billionaire Jack Ma is unloaded from a cargo plane in Nairobi on March 24, 2020. The masks, testing kits and protective gear were meant to help Kenya fight Covid-19 coronavirus. PHOTO | TONY KARUMBA | AFP)

By DAILY NATION

Kenya's Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) is looking into two separate theft reports relating to donated Covid-19 equipment in March, when the Ministry of Health was plotting how to combat the virus that has now infected 4,374 people in Kenya.

While the police at Mazingira House, Nairobi, have confirmed that investigations into the two incidents involving donations from Alibaba founder Jack Ma and the Chinese government, officials remain tight-lipped about how much progress has been made.

Director of Investigations John Kariuki confirmed that a team of detectives from the DCI’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) office are looking into the cases.

“Those are being handled by the JKIA office, but I’m not aware of how far investigations have gone,” Mr Kariuki said.

But when the Saturday Nation visited the DCI branch at JKIA, officers denied knowledge of any such investigations and referred our team to the head office on Kiambu Road for any information on the matter.

The reaction of officers at the JKIA branch indicates that details of the investigations remain a reserve of very few senior officials at the DCI.

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Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti did not pick up our numerous calls or respond to text messages requesting information on the progress of the investigations by press time.

The first consignment was donated by Mr Ma, who had made a similar philanthropic gesture in other African countries.

Mr Ma’s care package had 100,000 face masks and 20,000 testing kits, which arrived at JKIA on March 24.

As the huge consignment of test kits disappears, the government is keeping over 5,000 samples that are yet to be tested due to the global shortage of testing materials.

On Friday, Health Director-General Patrick Amoth acknowledged that the country has been experiencing a shortage of test kits. But he said the ministry had received a batch that would last the country four weeks.

“It is always dangerous to have a backlog, because if a sample tests positive and the person was roaming for weeks without knowing their results, the risk of transmission is high, hence a tedious process in reaching all the contact persons,” Dr Amoth said.

Healthcare workers, on the other hand, have been complaining that they do not have enough personal protective equipment, a situation that is putting their lives at risk.

This matter prompts the question:  Did this equipment genuinely disappear at the airport or was it an inside job by well-connected people? The Saturday Nation is yet to get an answer to the questions.

Since April, the alleged theft of Mr Ma’s donations has been discussed in hushed tones, with rumours flying high on social media.

But last week Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe for the first time publicly acknowledged that thieves had found their way to Mr Ma’s consignment.

The second donation, from the Chinese government, arrived on April 20 at the same aerodrome.

A local newspaper earlier this week detailed how Ministry of Health officials allegedly colluded with local and Chinese businessmen to steal the consignment, revealing that some of the suspected cons managed to escape arrest last week.

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