Reports of a possible loss of Sh10 billion earmarked for drought mitigation presents a perverted sense of irony.
The loss of any public money, no matter the amount and department, is criminal. But it is extremely bad if that money is meant to feed the starving and save lives. Such an act amounts to dancing on the graves of the famished Kenyans.
The latest report by the Auditor-General indicates that the National Drought Management Authority cannot account for some Sh10.4 billion it was allocated in the 2017/2018 financial year.
In an ideal situation, the government should not be allocating cash to feed people. However, due to failing rains every other year, poor agricultural practices and wrong distribution and marketing systems, the country is perennially food-starved.
Just to illustrate this, recent statistics from the government showed that at least 2.6 million people were in the throes of starvation, necessitating humanitarian assistance to avert mass deaths.
Given the pervasiveness of hunger, the government allocates cash for food aid every year and, in addition, receives donations from the United Nations’ agencies and other international organisations for the same purpose.
Paradoxically, it is these allocations for the deprived that cannot be properly accounted for. But this is not the first time questions are being raised over utilisation of food cash.
On several occasions, some government officials and crooked individuals have been caught stealing cash or the actual food meant for the starving population.
Indeed, just the other day, the government spokesman, Col (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna, announced a plan to stop direct food aid and replace it with cash transfers.
Underpinning this was the fact that food handouts were being stolen and redirected, hardly benefitting the targeted groups.
Not that cash transfer is fail-safe. Like other such grants, it is also vulnerable to theft and massive losses.
More fundamentally, the government must address itself to food security and shift from perennial relief food.
In fact, the creation of the National Drought Management Authority is an oxymoron, an admission that the State cannot feed the citizens and, hence, has to create an emergency outfit. Yet the country prides itself as an agriculture-based economy.
The relevant agencies — such as the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission — ought to get to the bottom of the matter and, should there be evidence of theft, drastic action must be taken against the culprits.
All the processes of cash and food disbursement must be interrogated to seal loopholes that allow for graft and pilferage.
It is extremely absurd that some fellows could be feeding off the cash meant to mitigate hunger.