Senators, Mbarak clash over mobile clinics procurement

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020 00:00 | By
Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission chief executive Twalib Mbarak. Photo/PD/FILE

Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka

Senators and officials of the anti-graft commission yesterday engaged in a heated debate over a probe into the procurement of the controversial Sh800 million mobile container clinics that have been lying idle for the past four years.

Members of the Senate Health committee tasked Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) chief executive Twalib Mbarak to explain why he failed to provide a progress report of the commission’s investigations.

Senators Ledama ole Kina (Narok), Abdullahi Ali (Wajir) and Mary Seneta (nominated) demanded details of the probe but Mbarak declined to oblige, saying doing so would jeopardise the investigations.

“The discussion we have on the probe on the Special Portable Clinics project under the Ministry of Health will interfere with the outcome of the investigations,” Mbarak said, warning members against any “slip of the tongue”.

“I am not defending anybody but I have limitations. We cannot go to the nitty-gritties of the investigations.”

Senators had requested details of 10 companies and directors the ministry had invited for a restricted tendering for the project.

This is after EACC submitted in its court papers that it had a case to prove how high-end wheeler dealers at the ministry colluded with some companies to inflate the cost of mobile clinics from Sh308 million to Sh800 million.

Under the well-calculated scheme, the anti-graft agency said a prefabricated medical clinic that could be locally manufactured at a cost of Sh3 million was given to a Chinese firm at a cost Sh8 million a unit.

The deal further shows the Chinese company, Guangzhou Moneybox Steel Structure Engineering Ltd, received Sh525 million meaning the firm awarded the contract, Estama Investment Ltd, pocketed Sh275 million for just being a go-between.

At the time of the scandal James Macharia and Khadija Kassachoon were Health Cabinet Secretary and  the principal secretary, respectively.

Estama, senior ministry of health officials and the Chinese firm procured sub-standard products that cannot be used.

Since November 3, 2016, EACC has been probing allegations of procurement irregularities at the ministry with regard to tender awarded to Estama for the supply of 100 portable clinics at Sh10 million per unit, totaling Sh1 billion.

In his defence, Mbarak who was accompanied by the agency head of investigations Abdi Ahmed said they had obtained documents from the ministry, various banks, Registrar of Companies and recorded statements from 58 persons of interest in the matter.

“On the procurement process, payments and confirmation of the supply. All the local aspects of the investigations have been concluded,” he told the committee chaired by Trans Nzoia Senator Michael Mbito.

Senators, however, insisted they needed to know the other companies that had been invited to tender for the project. 

“What is wrong with you giving us the detail of the 10 companies,” Wajir senator Abdullahi Ali asked.

Seneta told Mbarak not to hold on to the information “by hiding behind legal procedures and processes.”

Expressing his discontent with the senators, Mbarak told the committee that he was disappointed that legislators were suspecting he was hiding something.

“If you insist, I will give you want you want but I can assure you we will mess up the investigations and we will not make headways,” he charged.

Kina told Mbarak that senators has taken an oath and would not jeopardise investigations.

“In the past we have met the Directorate of Public Prosecutions in camera and gave us information we asked for,” he stated.

Eventually, Mbarak bowed to pressure and promised to provide the information senators had requested. 

He noted that the ministry through restricted tendering method invited 10 firms to bid but only six firms responded.

“On 29 June 2015, the tender was awarded to Estama at a cost of Sh10 million per unit,” he said.

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