State defends demotion of Kemri scientist

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • He was dismissed following reports that he failed to release Friday April 17's results on time.
  • Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe ordered his removal from any leadership position at Kemri immediately.

The government has defended its move to demote a top scientist in charge of testing for Covid-19 at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri).

Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Dr Rashid Aman stated that the decision to demote Dr Joel Lutomiah was made in line with the Ministry’s efforts to “streamline and improve the coordination of test results being received in good time”.

Dr Aman, while speaking during Sunday's national Covid-19 update, declined to delve further into the matter saying he cannot comment on administrative matters pertaining to Kemri.

"We must keep our eyes on the ball and focus on what is important. If there were problems in terms of coordination and transmission of the test results in good time so that we can report to you and the nation, then it is our role to ensure that we do that and coordinate it properly. So whatever decisions made were in line to streamline and improve the coordination of test results being received in good time," he said in response to a query.

Dr Lutomiah, who was chairman of the Kemri Rapid Response which is in charge of laboratories, and would appear on the Ministry of Health committee to give the position of the institute on Covid-19, was dismissed following reports that he failed to release Friday April 17's results on time.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe instructed Kemri Director-General Yeri Kombe to remove Dr Lutomiah from any leadership position at Kemri immediately.

According to a confidential notice, titled “Disciplinary letter”, the researcher delayed the release of Covid-19 lab results.

“This is further to our meeting with the Cabinet secretary this afternoon on the matter relating to your conduct. You, this morning, delayed the release of Covid-19 laboratory results of the previous evening contrary to an earlier agreement with the Ministry of Health that you release them before 8am. You, therefore, have failed in your duty to honour a matter that is of national importance,” the letter by Prof Kombe says.

Scientists and researchers were on Sunday up in arms over the move by the Ministry stating that it was the wrong time to get rid of a researcher who played a key role in the fight against Covid-19.

Kemri has the largest testing capacity in the country.

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