Governors rope in DCI to end medical supplies theft

Kiarie Badilisha

Nyandarua Governor Kiarie Badilisha display some of the stolen medicines recovered in a residential house in Engineer Town.

Photo credit: Waikwa Maina | Nation Media Group

Governors in the South Rift region have roped in the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to help them in the fight against rising theft of drugs from public hospitals.

The governors are also banking on technology to fight the menace that threatens to cripple service delivery in the hospitals.

The Nation has established that Nakuru, Kericho, Bomet, Narok, Laikipia and Nyandarua hospitals have been hit by well-organised cartels that have been stealing drugs and medical equipment.

“We have involved undercover officers from the DCI to ensure we arrest the people behind this menace. There has been widespread suffering of patients in public facilities because drugs have been stolen to be sold in private facilities,” said a senior Kericho County official.

The criminals have been taking advantage of the lack of proper accounting systems by health departments and facilities to steal.

Most of those involved in the theft are medics working in hospitals in the counties. Last week’s arrest of a 29-year-old medic linked to theft of drugs in Nyandarua lifted the lid of how those involved in the crime live lavish lifestyles even as patients suffer.

Nyandarua County Commissioner Amos Mariba and County Police Commander Omar Arero led last week’s swoop, in which drugs and other pharmaceuticals worth Sh5million were impounded at a residential building belonging to the junior employee who works at the Engineer Nyayo Ward Hospital. More drugs were found in a chemist owned by the suspect.

“We have always wondered how a young man of his age can be living lavishly and driving expensive vehicles. We did not know that he is involved in such illegal deals,” said area resident James Mbugua.

The recovery raised more questions than answers on just who is involved.

“There is no way the junior officer could have such a huge consignment without the support of some other people. But he has cooperated and given us the names and contacts of the persons involved, I will not give more details about them until investigations are over,”said Mr Mariba.

Residents also wondered how clinical officers and the hospital management were unable to discover the theft of such a huge consignment.

The swoop was the culmination of three months of investigations by a special team formed by Governor Kiare Badilisha last year.

“I secretly planted spies to trace the medicine movements, an effort that has landed us here today,” said the governor.

Deputy Governor John Mathara said the county government has embarked on a hospital supplies automation process to arrest the situation.

In Nakuru and Kericho Counties, theft of drugs in government hospitals has become rampant. Medical and non-medical supplies worth tens of millions of shillings from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority have found their way into private clinics and chemists.

Kericho County Referral hospital, and Kapkatet, Londiani, Fort Tenan, Sigowet, Ainamoi and Kipkelion sub-county hospitals are the most affected.

Kericho Governor Erick Mutai last week raised a red flag on the issue, saying his administration would not condone the theft of drugs.

“We are working on a system to tighten the noose around those involved in the crime,” Dr Mutai said. The Governor has directed the heads of departments in the health docket to immediately shuffle pharmacists with the suspension of those who have been fingered for the theft.

“We have embarked on a crackdown and some of those involved will not only be suspended from service, but will also be prosecuted,” Dr Mutai said.

The governor has repeatedly come face to face with the suffering patients during impromptu visits to the county referral hospital, among others.

“I can tell you for sure that it is not going to be business as usual in the department as we cannot sit back and watch as if we are helpless when the patients and their families are subjected to untold suffering. The county employees have a choice to toe the line and do their work or simply ship out,” Dr Mutai said.

Reporting by Waikwa Maina, Vitalis Kimutai and Eric Matara