Scandal-riddled Kemsa set to fire half of its workforce

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021 00:00 | By
Kenya Medical Supplies Authority depot in Embakasi, Nairobi. Photo/File

The Ministry of Health has ordered mass sacking of staff at the troubled Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa).

State Corporations Advisory Committee (SCAC) has already recommended the sacking of nearly half the state agency’s workforce with an insider putting the number of affected employees at 920.

Sacking letters were being drafted last night to be distributed starting this morning, a move which has since caused panic at the authority with some of the workers opting to skip duty yesterday in anxiety.

The committee’s mandate is to advise the government on all matters pertaining to the general administration of state corporations.

Yesterday, Embakasi East MP Babu Owino waded into the matter by seeking a statement in Parliament from the Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe to explain the mass sackings, majority of whom he claimed are his constituents.

“The statement is ready, we cannot allow our people to suffer in the hands of the misguided board and ministry officials,” Owino confirmed.

Efforts to obtain comments from Kagwe or the Principal Secretary Dr. Susan Mochache did not bear fruit as calls to their phones went unanswered. 

A source privy to the goings-on at the agency told People Daily that the board had couched the mass sacking as part of a “restructuring” exercise to conform with the requirements of the law governing state corporations and semi-autonomous agencies.

“The process started without the involvement of stakeholders who are the staff.

The board and the ministry team and the SCAC officials met in Naivasha last month where the idea was mooted,” said the source.

Fresh blood

It was decided during the meeting that a clean-up be implemented to bring on board fresh blood to revamp the authority.

The resolution was adopted during a meeting held last week in Mombasa and chaired by Kagwe where it was resolved  to declare nearly half the Kemsa positions redundant.

Last evening, the acting CEO Edward Njoroge, Chair of the Human Resource Committee Terry Wangui Ramadhan and Captain Lawrence Wahome, a member of the committee, were holed up in the agency’s boardroom drafting the sacking letters.

“They have also requested for security tomorrow to avert any acts of lawlessness by the affected staff members.

There is anxiety among the staff since they have not been informed of the impending sacking and are only hearing from some sources within the management,” said an employee privy to the details.

In his question to Kagwe, Owino sought an explanation behind the rationale for sacking the majority of the workforce including cleaners.

“What are the steps the ministry is taking to ensure that those who will be affected by such irrational moves are fully compensated and allowed to continue with their normal lives,” reads the statement.

Owino wants Kagwe to state the procedure the ministry is going to apply to lay off workers and what happens to those that have loans with financial institutions.

“The CS should explain whether his ministry is prepared for the many court cases that will emanate from the move he has taken,” reads the statement.

The authority has been mired in corruption scandals that prompted the termination of the appointment of members of the board by Kagwe.

Following the so-called Kemsa Covid heist, Kagwe revoked the appointments of Timothy Mwololo Waema, Bibiana K. Njue, Joel Onsare Gesuka and Dorothy Otieno from the board.

In their place, he appointed Lawrence Wahome, Robert Nyarango, Terry Kiunge Ramadhani and Linton Nyaga Kinyua for a three-year term.

The board’s chairperson Kembi Gitura was also removed in the wake of the heist.

Former top managers including the Chief Executive Jonah Manjari, Commercial Director, Edward Mureithi and Procurement Director Charles Juma were all suspended pending investigations.

The scandals also led to suspension of funding by international donors, who included The Global Fund that said Kenya risks losing Sh48 billion if corruption investigations at the agency are not completed and changes made to ensure transparency.

The Fund mobilises and invests money to accelerate the fight against Aids, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics.

A source at The Global Fund confided in People Dailythat there were concerns about graft allegations at Kemsa and that the Fund wanted commitment the claims will be addressed. 

Implementation of reforms

The Fund gave a number of demands that must be met for Kenya to continue receiving grants, which included Kemsa finishing the implementation of reforms so that they can make urgent interventions, including addressing recent disruptions in the supply of critical HIV drugs.

The Fund, which has approved a total of $68 million to support Kenya in mitigating the consequences of Covid-19, also expressed its displeasure at the procurement of materials needed to fight the virus.

Following the rot at the authority, donors turned down a request of an additional $31 million, to boost the Covid-19 response.

Donors at the Global Fund’s Sixth Replenishment Conference pledged $14.02 billion to help save 16 million lives and end the epidemics of Aids, TB and malaria by 2030.

The Sh48 billion grant will supplement government efforts against HIV, TB and malaria, and strengthen health systems at the national, county and community levels.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission began investigating graft at Kemsa last year over the procurement and supply of Covid-19 equipment. The commission cited an “irregular expenditure” of Sh7.8 billion.

More on News