Hefty PPE prices justified by demand in wake of pandemic

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021 00:00 | By
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe with Kemsa acting CEO Edward Njoroge when he appeared before PIC during the ongoing investigation into utilisation of Covid-19 funds by KEMSA. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

Inflated prices of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) by Kenya Medical Supplies Authority are justified owing to the high demand in the market when Covid-19 pandemic broke out, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said yesterday.

Kagwe told a parliamentary committee that following the unprecedented outbreak the whole world was in a rush to purchase the equipment forcing the manufacturers to increase the prices.

The CS also owned up to the events that took place at Kemsa, saying as the CS he is responsible of all that happens at the ministry.

“I take responsibility of everything that takes place at the ministry, I am in charge,” Kagwe told the committee.

Kagwe at the same time disclosed that the Cabinet has okayed the sale of PPEs being held by Kemsa.

“The cabinet has directed disposal of the PPEs to avoid loss through expiries,” Kagwe told the committee.

Kemsa procured PPEs at Sh 9,000 up from Sh 4,500 starting March last year when the pandemic first hit the country.

“We had no alternative but to buy at the market price then. However, we managed to convince local manufacturers to reduce the prices and it was then that the prices went down to Sh 4, 300,” Kagwe said when he appeared before the Public Investment Committee (PIC) of the National Assembly.

He was however hard-pressed by members to confirm whether he was aware of the irregular transactions at Kemsa include haphazard issuance of tenders to supply PPEs.

Wajir East MP Kassim Rashid asked the CS to explain what action he took at the rot at Kemsa happened leading to the loss of billings of shillings.

“As the man I charge of the ministry, what did you do to address the issues that led to the loss of tax payer’s money at Kemsa,?” said Rashid.

In response Kagwe said he was fully briefed on the matter in question adding that the situation then where everybody was in panic was definitely bowed to affect on the prices worldwide.

PPE loss

 The CS told members that a recent stock verification report and inventory of items on the PPEs at Kemsa established that an estimated loss of Sh 1.9 billion was realized.

Responding to another question by Rashid on the fate of the 54 suppliers who are owed over Sh 2.9 billion by Kemsa, Kagwe said the money will be realized through the sale of the items.

“We have advised Kemsa to trade themselves out of the situation and look for the money to pay the suppliers,” said the CS.

Kagwe said he has achieved much since the outbreak of the pandemic saying through the efforts the country has managed to contain the situation.

“I am not blowing my own trumpet but I think I have managed the pandemic the best way possible,” said the CS.

Committee chairman Abdulswamad Nassir said the committee will be retreating today to start the report writing which should be ready by next week.

A red flag had been raised in July last year after it emerged that Kemsa was procuring PPEs at inflated prices of almost double the market price.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) undertook investigations into the procurement processes that saw various companies awarded deals to supply PPEs in suspicious circumstances, it emerged that material donations were also not spared.

Of the donations which landed in Kenya including large consignments of masks and ventilators, part of the equipment was directed to private warehouses upon arrival in Nairobi.

Newly-registered companies also secured lucrative tenders at Kemsa despite there being little proof that they were capable of fulfilling their obligations in the deal.

One such company that was registered on January 22, was awarded a Sh4 billion tender weeks later to supply PPE kits.

Each kit was to be procured at a cost of Sh9,000 which is double the market price of Sh4, 500.

The company was expected to supply hundreds of thousands of items including goggles, gloves, waterproof shoe covers and body suits.

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