Rows between two State agencies blamed for poor Covid kits

Kebs MD Bernard Njiraini who on September 15, 2020 said some masks from China and the Netherlands are of poor quality..

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Dr Siyoi said sanitisers not approved by his organisation are on sale around the country.
  • PBB now conducts safety and quality tests long after goods are released in the market, he added.
  • The board has regulatory authority over medical items that pass through gazetted ports of entry.
  • However, the regulator was barred from the ports through a circular issued by Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua.

Disputes between two government agencies are to blame for substandard coronavirus medical supplies found in the Kenyan market, a Senate committee was told yesterday.

Differences between the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PBB) and the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) played out during a meeting with the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on Covid-19.

PBB Chief Executive Fred Siyoi said the agency is no longer allowed to operate at the ports of entry, thus compromising the safety and quality of goods getting into the country.

Dr Siyoi told the Sylvia Kasanga-led team that sanitisers not approved by his organisation are on sale around the country.

“We now rely on post-market surveillance. Unhindered intervention at the entry ports remains important in safeguarding public health,” Dr Siyoi said.

PBB now conducts safety and quality tests long after goods are released in the market, he added.

Regulatory authority

The board has regulatory authority over medical items that pass through gazetted ports of entry to ensure compliance with approved specifications.

However, the regulator was barred from the ports through a circular issued by Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua last year.

Mr Kinyua said Kebs would be the lead authority in coordinating the inspection of goods at the country of origin and issuing certificates of conformity “to ensure quality standards and the adherence to other regulatory requirements”.

The circular first grouped the agencies into five categories, with only Immigration, Port Health and Port Security Office, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Kebs allowed full access.

Inter-agency row

A move meant to improve efficiency at the entry points, especially Mombasa, triggered an inter-agency row.

Dr Siyoi said some consignments, including sanitiser with methanol, made their way into the country without his board’s approval.

Senators expressed concern that the exclusion of PBB from ports of entry may compromise the quality of imports.

“How sure are we that the goods failing the quality test when already in the market will be recalled? Isn’t it necessary for PPB to be strategically placed at the ports?” Narok Senator Ledama Olekina asked.

“We are talking about the safety of millions of Kenyans. Why should a railway line be at the port and not the agency that ensures safety is guarded?”

Kebs MD Bernard Njiraini admitted that 25 samples of sanitiser failed to meet the alcohol content.

“We have been carrying out surveillance and picking items randomly for analysis. We have withdrawn some consignments from the market,” Mr Njiraini said.

He added that some masks from China and the Netherlands are of poor quality.

Streamline operations

Mr Njiraini said the ejection of PBB from entry points was meant to streamline operations and reduce the cost of doing business.

“There were 27 government agencies intervening and reducing turnaround time, stopping one consignment several times,” said, adding that the two agencies “will still work together”.

Mr Njiraini said no consignment gets into the country without the board’s approval and that officials who issue certificates of conformity are recognised by PPB.


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