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Cartels take toll on NHIF amid Covid-19

By People Reporter
Friday, May 22nd, 2020
A view of the NHIF offices. /FILE

The last two months have been torturous for the country as the Coronavirus pandemic took a heavy toll on the struggling economy, but at the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) it has been business as usual.

It is ironical that as the Covid-19 takes a heavy toll on the country’s economy, marauding cartels have patronised the corridors of the national health insurer where they are cutting multi-million deals in medical scheme tenders.

“These crooks are taking advantage of the government’s focus on the Covid-19 pandemic and cutting deals. Some of the players in these scandals are known crooks. They are planning to embezzle millions of shillings in fictitious tenders,” a source at the NHIF told People Daily and requested not to be identified since the happenings are at planning stages.

Interestingly, the deals involve attempts to activate suspect tenders that had been declared dead, which the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) has in the past advised against, because they didn’t meet the threshold.It is also at the time, the institution is gearing up for a World Bank support to the implementation of the Universal Healthcare Coverage of around Sh40 billion.

An insider who could not be named because of the communication bureaucratic red tape at the NHIF intimated to the People Daily that the network of the cartel involved had become active in the last one month since the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer.

“We are aware of an attempt by the NHIF to revive a dead contract with Jubilee insurance of Sh818 million by trying to influence PPRA to give a positive response on this tender which in the past the procurement regulator had overruled,” added the insider.

This contract according to the source had been terminated over a month ago.

Attempts by the People Daily to get comments from the new CEO, Peter Kamunyo did not bear any positive response as telephone calls and messages remain unanswered for the last one week.

“Why is the NHIF trying to revive old contracts after replacing former acting CEO, slightly over one month ago yet for a long time he didn't act on the said contracts which expired over a month ago?” this publication’s writer inquired on May 13, 2020 and repeated the probe two days later. This one also was not answered.

Kamunyo replaced Nicodemus Odongo, an economist by background around April 9, 2020.

Odongo had been at the helm of the NHIF in acting capacity for two years after Geoffrey Mwangi, then CEO was sacked on the grounds of abuse of office.

“During the time Odongo was in charge at the NHIF he did not act on several attempts to revive those dubious tenders,” the source further indicated.

Again, Kamunyo has refused to respond on his knowledge and role on the tender that is being worked to automate the NHIF system valued at Sh5 billion.

“Why is there a sudden hurry in procuring multi billion shillings tenders after you just took office?” the writer posed again.

While this is taking place, it should be remembered that all state agencies are currently advertising tenders.

In February this year, the NHIF Board, tired of the institution appearing to be a cash cow for others at the expense of the poor Kenyans burdened by diseases, came close to naming the faces behind the cartel network, but promised to do this at a later date.

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