Kemsa reforms have started bearing fruit

The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) Head Office Nairobi at Commercial Street, Industrial Area.

The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) Head Office Nairobi at Commercial Street, Industrial Area, Nairobi. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

That the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) has had a controversial past is public knowledge; from scandalous procurements to a toxic working environment. This negativity discredited Kemsa in the eyes of the public and clouded its important role as a key pillar in promoting access to quality health care.

In the last year, however, Kemsa has turned a new leaf and implemented radical reforms to promote efficiency and effectiveness, helping it win back public and government trust. These changes have set the institution on a path to success.

However, it has not been a walk in the park for the board inaugurated in May last year. The board members were faced with numerous challenges including people issues, cash flow problems caused by debts and counties not buying from Kemsa, unhappy donors and poor systems. The turnaround strategy has been anchored on good corporate governance, operational excellence, competitive procurement and a re-energised human resource.

To execute the turn-around strategy, staff working from home were recalled, a new staff establishment was developed and procurement department employees reshuffled. Staff are now highly motivated. A well-established governance structure led by the board and management is ensuring flawless emergency preparedness. A capacity to service 12,000 sites and facilities every month as well as optimal routing to ensure prompt delivery of medical supplies is a testament to the ongoing operational reforms. A fast order turnaround time—averaging 48 hours for emergencies, seven days for hospitals and 10 days for primary health facilities—is one of the many successes achieved. This is supported by the recent operationalisation of the Kisumu regional distribution centre. The order fill rate has improved from 26 per cent to 70 per cent.

Adopting cutting-edge technology solutions will offer end-to-end visibility across the supply chain. For instance, it will trigger restocking before stockouts. To enhance delivery monitoring and data accuracy, Kemsa has introduced an Electronic Proof of Deliveries app with GPS tracking. It sends notifications to all parties once a shipment has been received at the last mile health facility.

Automation of supplier registration, transition to annual fixed quantity contracts and introduction of a lotting system to prevent monopoly are among measures taken to promote competition. Increased procurement from local manufacturers, including through contract manufacturing, is now being observed to boost local industries. To help achieve affordable and reliable healthcare, Kemsa has adopted bulk purchases to ensure value for money.

Dialogue with counties has improved relations, while talks with strategic partners has renewed their confidence and willingness to support the agency. Good governance practices have resulted in the government’s decision to recapitalise Kemsa to the tune of Sh2 billion. The agency is also working to secure financial support from the Health ministry, Treasury, donors and other stakeholders.

Mr Nyakera is the chairperson of the Kemsa board.