Over the weekend, this desk revealed how Bungoma County refused to buy personal protective equipment (PPEs) for its covid-19 response team worth Ksh123,000, but instead went ahead to borrow Ksh6.9 million for awareness campaign.
Well, it did not end there. A further dig by Kahwa Tungu shows that the money borrowed from Bungoma County Referral Hospital could have been misused, and a big chunk pocketed.
At the centre of the saga is Caro Buyela, governor Wycliffe Wangamati’s special projects advisor.
The confirmation of of coronavirus (Covid-19) in the country seems to have paved way for Buyela and several other public servants in the county to embezzle public funds.
On March 18, 2020, the CEC Public Admin Richard Sabwami, governor’s Special programs Advisor Caro Buyela and representatives from the Finance departs visited the CEC Health Antony Walela armed with the “borrowing” letter.
The funds requested for were granted immediately by the chief officer Health Patrick Wandili, and withdrawn from Bungoma County Referral Hospital.
Upon receipt of the money by finance department, it was wired to the Governor’s kitty.
How the money was shared
Ksh500,000 was wired back to Health department for the purchase of PPEs including thermoguns, sanitisers, masks and training of medics
Ksh1,500,000 was wired to public admin for meetings, logistics and training for the COVID-19 “response” team(s) .
A Balance of Ksh4,986,000 remained in the Governor’s Office. This writer learns that Ms Buyela in conjunction with other officers used the money to buy some items without following procurement procedures.
The close to Ksh5 million was used in the purchase of four 120-litre Water tanks in each of the 88 selected market centres countywide, totaling to 352 pieces. Also, a total 100 buckets, 500 pieces of A5 size brochures, soap and sanitizers were bought.
A tank, according to a source from the supplier, cost Ksh1,000 each.This means that at most Ksh352,000 was used to buy the tanks, while the liquid soap is estimated to have cost at most Ksh135,000 cumulatively.
Each brochure cost Ksh7, meaning Ksh3,500 was used for brochures while buckets and bar soaps were not quantified.
This means that the county could have used less than Ksh600,000 to purchase the items.
This writer is informed that each ward got 3-4 (120-litre) water tanks, some got water buckets while very few got bar soaps. A 20 litre liquid soap was shared between 2-4 market centres depending on the liking of the office of the governor’s advisors on special programmes.
One water tank meant for Khalaba was given to Limassol Chemist (opposite governor’s office) as a gift.
The Governor’s Press service reported that 600 pieces as the number of sanitary kits given.
A day after the delivering the county sanitary units, Caro Buyela also donated the same kind of items under her banner Caro Buyela Foundation. Unconfirmed sources put the figure at 60 water tanks.
The items (for the county) were bought without following procurement laws and insiders say that there are no documentations to support the purchases. In a bid to clear the mess, Buyela is said to be working in reverse gear to prepare the papers.
A big chunk of the money is said to have been pocketed, and the ‘borrowed’ money is yet to be returned.
Insiders say that this is not the first time money has been ‘borrowed’ from the health department, and never returned.
To enable the embezzlement, insiders say the Ministry of Health in the County has not been remitting its revenue collections to the county revenue account. A normal requisition is done to use the amount.
Controller of budget has previously flagged out the issue of unbanked revenue against the law. Nothing has been done to date. Even the MCAs seem to have been compromised, as they have failed to enact laws on the same, or even query the expenditures.
Caro Buyela has been in charge of Ksh100 million kitty allocated for emergency. The money is said to have already been exhausted with nothing to show.
Ms Buyela has been allegedly running her Caro Buyela Foundation using county money, something Kahawa Tungu could not authenticate independently.
We reached her for a comment, but she remained tight lipped saying that only her immediate supervisor (governor) could respond to the allegations.
Efforts to get comments from the governor and health CEC did not bear fruits, as they did not answer our calls nor did they respond to our text messages by the time of going to press.
Another scandal could be on the offing, after the county covid-19 response team announced plans to buy foodstuff to distribute to the needy.
“The committee suggested they buy from three suppliers, Wangamati insists on one,” says an inside source.