NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to Kenya said Monday that much more needs to be done to curb endemic corruption in the East African country as he launched a major U.S. aid initiative to provide life-saving drugs.
While media reports exposing corruption are good for raising public awareness of the problem, actual steps need to be taken to investigate, prosecute and convict suspects, Ambassador Robert Godec said.
"I have said frequently, it (corruption) is undermining the country's future. Corruption threatens Kenya's economic growth, the provision of government services and security. It threatens the country's health care system. It must end," he said.
Godec spoke at the launch of a U.S. Agency for International Development program that will provide KSH 65 billion (US $650 million) to the government's Kenya Medical Supplies Authority to acquire and supply life-saving drugs, HIV testing kits and contraceptives across the country.
Godec said the program must be transparent and ensure that the drugs, antiretroviral drugs and malaria medicines get where they are supposed to go.
He added that "there are quite a number of measures" in pace to make sure that the U.S. aid money is spent well and gets the life-saving drugs to those Kenyans who need them.
"Public funds must go to their intended beneficiaries — in this case patients suffering from life-threatening diseases — and not into the pockets of officials who betray the public trust," Godec said.
Among the measures being undertaken to deter corruption are using independent auditing firms to provide oversight over the program.
U.S. President Barack Obama told Kenyans during his visit to his father's homeland in late July that the country is at a crossroads and urged them to "choose the path to progress" by continuing to root out corruption.
The chairman of a parliamentary watchdog on public spending, Nicholas Gumbo, has said it is investigating suspicious purchases listed by the Devolution and Planning Ministry, including the purchase of ball point pens for $85 each and the listing of sex toys as assets of the ministry.
Transparency International, in its 2014 corruption perception index, ranked Kenya close to the bottom — 145th out of 174 countries.