County, health chief officer sued over tender awards

The prosecution of Geoffrey Otieno Okuto over the 2019 murder of an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) supporter in Kilifi County is hanging in the balance after it emerged that the defence is seeking a review of the charge.

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Two human rights organisations have sued the Mombasa County government and its medical services chief officer, seeking procurement and tender documents from the health department.

The Commission for Human Rights and Justice (CHRJ) and Genesis for Human Rights (GHR) claim that there was conflict of interest in the awarding of tenders.

In their petition at the High Court in Mombasa, the organisations say tenders were awarded to Bauas Taka Enterprises Ltd, Better Hours Investments Ltd, Hekis Investments Ltd and Netrick Business Selection, which they claim are associated with the chief officer’s family, relatives and friends.

They have also sued the Devolution Cabinet secretary and the Attorney-General.

The petitioners want to be given tender advertisements, bills of quantities, lists of bidders and quotations, and evaluation reports from tender technical committees and their minutes.

Other documents sought are statements of value for each tender awarded, contract agreements, letters of award and statements of actual payments for each tender.

They want the chief officer and the county government compelled to furnish all the information and documents requested.

“There is a lot of malpractice going on under the first respondent’s (chief officer medical services) watch,” the petition states.

The petitioners singled out a tender relating to a project at Port Reitz Sub-County Hospital, claiming that the initial value was Sh18 million but was later raised to Sh23 million.

The organisations also say that documents relating to the installation of CCTV cameras at a Covid-19 isolation centre at the Technical University of Mombasa, for which a Sh2.8 million tender was awarded to one of the companies, have been kept under lock and key.

They also argue that all recent contracts funded through the county medical services department were awarded with secrecy, lack of accountability and in disregard of tendering procedures and guidelines.

CHJR and GHR further claim that the companies and others have dominated tender awards and frequently emerged as beneficiaries of tenders from the health department.

“The acts of irregular and irresponsible financial management and procurement malpractices in the medical services department will continue and there will be loss of public funds which cannot be recovered,” the petition says.

The petitioners say they need the documents in order to highlight irregularity and irresponsible financial management in the department.

“The petitioners are filing this suit as public interest litigation and have already demanded … the documents but in vain,” the petition states.

They also want Justice John Mativo to declare that the chief officer and the county government have violated their rights under the Constitution.

A hearing has been scheduled for February 10.