Covid-19 scandal: Uhuru wants all Kemsa tenders published online

President Uhuru Kenyatta. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Kemsa has been on the spot for weeks over a Covid-19 procurement scandal involving the purchase of several items at exorbitant prices, leading to the looting of billions of shillings.
  • President Kenyatta issued the directive at the Covid-19 Conference held virtually on Monday, for the country to reflect on past experiences and plan for the future.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has given the Health ministry 30 days to establish a mechanism for all tenders by the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) to be published online, a move that will expose the billionaires running Afya House and revolutionise procurement in public service.

Kemsa has been on the spot for weeks over a Covid-19 procurement scandal involving the purchase of several items at exorbitant prices, leading to the looting of billions of shillings.

Amid investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and other relevant authorities, its chief executive Jonah Manjari and directors Eliud Muriithi (Commercial) and Charles Jume (Procurement) were suspended on August 14.

President Kenyatta issued the directive at the Covid-19 Conference held virtually on Monday, for the country to reflect on past experiences and plan for the future. The conference aimed at building resilience to deal with future pandemics was organised by the Council of Governors.

Transparency

Mr Kenyatta said the publication of procurement information related to Covid-19, including winners of tenders, is an act of transparency and an anti-corruption measure that should be adopted by all public entities.

This will enhance the highest level of public scrutiny at all units of public administration and improve management of public resources for public good, he said, adding Kenyans have a right to know how funds are used.

“I therefore direct the Ministry of Health to come up with a transparent, open method and mechanism through which all tenders and procurement done by Kemsa are available online so we can see who has been awarded a tender, what is the value of the tender, what it was for and how the tender was evaluated,” he said.

"“We can also see who was finally awarded and I think this level of transparency, and through the use of technology, will go a very long way towards ensuring we have the confidence of our people and that those placed in institutions are able to manage the resources of the taxpayers plus our development partners.”

This is not the first time the President has made such a declaration. In an Executive Order on Procurement of public goods, works and services by public entities in 2018, the President declared all government entities and public-owned institutions will publish tenders and awards.

The investigation

Last week, Kemsa admitted in the Senate that it exclusively procured Covid-19-related supplies from select firms at preset prices on the directive of the Health ministry.

Mr Kembi Gitura, the board chairman of the agency that buys drugs for all public health facilities in the country, said Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache gave the instructions via a letter in April. Ms Mochache will appear before the Senate this week to respond to allegations made by Kemsa.

The investigation into Kemsa follows a Nation Media Group expose titled “Covid-19 millionaires”.

The Nation, which broke the story, reported how Kemsa officials handpicked companies and handed them multi-billion-shilling contracts, citing the health crisis and setting the stage for the current scandal at the agency, which has already led to the suspension of several officials.

The investigation into Kemsa comes at a time when the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (Icpak) has asked its members, as well as procurement officers, to be at the forefront of providing information to investigative agencies probing Covid-19 funds theft allegations.

In a statement, Icpak also asked Parliament to hasten the discussion and approval of the Whistleblowers Protection Bill that they said would protect officers who come forward with information.

“Patriotic Kenyans and especially professionals from all spheres, including accountants, procurement officers, and others who have credible information should be ready to provide such information to the relevant authorities to facilitate investigations into the loss of public funds,” said Icpak chairperson Rose Mwaura.

Key points

Among those who took part in the virtual gathering were Deputy President William Ruto, CoG chair Wycliffe Oparanya, who is the governor of Kakamega County, and ministers.

In his address, President Kenyatta also emphasised the need for preventive care when it comes to response to all diseases.

He noted that the measures Kenya took following the Covid-19 pandemic, many of which are related to higher standards of hygiene, resulted in a decline in the number of cases of other diseases such as those that are waterborne.

As such, the President said, virus containment protocols such as regular hand washing should be the new normal in Kenya.

Various recommendations were made during the conference for adoption by both levels of government in readiness for future pandemics. The two levels of government agreed to keep the momentum of coordinating and collaborating in the post Covid-19 period.

They agreed to jointly develop a country post Covid-19 socio-economic re-engineering and recovery strategy, improve community healthcare response as well as establish regional infectious disease centres and research institutions and strengthen national and local early warning systems.

They also resolved to strengthen accountability and actively fight corruption by embracing open government, publicise tenders and awarded contracts on county and national government websites and also ensure agencies tasked to fight corruption coordinate their work to minimise duplication.

Mr Kenyatta also noted the need to focus on mental healthcare as it is a serious concern, especially among the youth. He asked the Health ministry to begin working on a detailed plan on how to address the matter.

He also called for the utilisation of knowledge gained from the global and national response to Covid-19 in the roll-out of the country's Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programme.

Deputy President William Ruto said the virus brought to the fore Kenya's manufacturing potential as seen through production of personal protective equipment.

A national conference will be held to review response to the health crisis and develop Kenya's post Covid-19 action plan.

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