Kemsa rot result of incompetence, Kagwe opens up

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020 00:00 | By
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe when he appeared before National Assembly Health Committee. Photo/PD/Samuel Kariuki

Revelations that Kemsa supplied diapers disguised as Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to a hospital has exposed the extent to which the rot at the country’s premier medical supplies agency goes.

National Assembly Health Committee members  were yesterday shocked to hear that the agency sent a container full of diapers camouflaged as PPEs.

Narok West MP Gabriel Tongoyo told a committee hearing the alleged Covid-19 funds misuse that he personally witnessed a container full of diapers being offloaded at the National Spinal Injury Hospital and when he inquired, he was told that it was part of PPEs.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe (CS) said he was not aware of the “unique” supply and promised to investigate, saying: “I take this opportunity to apologise on behalf of the ministry for the supply.”

In a rather damning revelation, Kagwe told the committee that the United States had suspended sale of reagents to Kenya, further complicating the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Defied directives

“The situation has come at a time when we are making gains, we will now have to liaise with Kemsa to see how to handle the problem, which was unprecedented,” Kagwe said.

Kagwe said PPEs worth Sh6.2 billion being held at Kemsa warehouses will be sold at market prices. Kemsa board chairman Kembi Gitura had said it would not be practical to sell the items at existing prices as the agency would lose more than Sh4.3 billion in the process.

It also emerged that a Mombasa-based clearing and forwarding company was awarded a tender to supply 60,000 face masks at a cost of Sh260 million.

The cost was not only exaggerated but it was unclear how a clearing and forwarding firm could be tasked to supply medical items.

And Health Principal Secretary (PS) Susan Mochache tore into the Kemsa management, saying it had defied directives from her office and went ahead to over-commit supplies to a tune of more than Sh7 billion.

Mochache told the committee that Kemsa by-passed the parent ministry to make a request to the National Treasury for funds to procure Covid-19 related equipment.

Poor manager

“My colleague at the Treasury wrote to me informing me of the request by Kemsa. I wrote to the agency, advising that the procedure requires that the request is made through the mother ministry,” Mochache told the committee chaired by Sabina Chege, the Murang’a County Woman Rep.

In the letter to the Treasury, Kemsa had sought Sh2.9 billion to procure PPEs.

The management had also proposed that in a situation where funds were not available, it be allowed to utilise money set aside for the Universal Health Care programme.

The PS further revealed that the management went on to commission procurement of PPEs to a tune of Sh5 billion. She said she only approved Sh580 million for the procurement of the equipment.

“After the ministry turned down the request by Kemsa, the management went on to commit items way beyond the ceiling given,” Mochache said.

When he appeared before the Senate Ad-Hoc committee on Covid-19, suspended Kemsa chief executive Jonah Manjari claimed the CS and the PS had sent him messages to direct him to award tenders to specific companies and individuals.

But yesterday, the two denied the claims, terming Manjari as an incompetent and poor manager, who was blaming others for his failures.

“I was at a loss when I heard from Kemsa that I was giving directives in the award of tenders. It is not my job to advise anyone to commit a crime,” Mutahi said.

He went on to describe Manjari as a poor manager, saying it is common practice in government that directives are given in writing. 

“If you fail to adhere to this simple aspect of management then you are in the wrong office,” Kagwe said in relation to Manjari’s claims that he ordered him on who to award tenders.

The CS distanced himself from any involvement in the procurement of PPEs by Kemsa, saying he was the one who invited the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to investigate the allegations.

Kagwe said that despite being the minister in charge of the drugs suppliers’ agency, he is yet to set foot at its offices for the seven months he has been in office.

Manjari had told the Senate committee that Kagwe used to frequent Kemsa headquarters to supervise operations.

Kagwe also dismissed claims that PPEs donated by the Jack Ma foundation were stolen and sold in Tanzania.

The CS said the Chinese government was contented by the way donations from the foundation and the Asian country had been utilised.

“Some of the rumours making rounds in the country are indeed coming from extremely ignorant people. How can you say Jack Ma’s donations were sold in Tanzania, a country you say is corona free?” posed Kagwe.

Mochache told the MPs that all the letters and correspondence from her office to Kemsa were procedural, and that none amounted to directing Manjari or his team to manipulate the procurement process.

“I have evidence to show,” she declared, tabling correspondence with Manjari. “In most cases, I actually insisted to them on the need to follow the law.”

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