Covid millionaires report to be tabled in Parliament

Dr Jonah Manjari
Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

A report on the Sh7.8 billion scandal at Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) is among those that have been prioritised by MPs when sittings resume on January 25.

Investigative agencies cannot act on the recommendations of parliamentary reports unless they have been adopted by the House.

Sources in the National Assembly leadership confided to the Saturday Nation that the committees are determined to get the report listed on the order paper and discussed by the House.

The move, the sources said, is aimed at protecting the image of the National Assembly so that lawmakers are not seen as a hurdle to having perpetrators prosecuted.

Billed as one of the biggest scandals in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s 10-year reign, the Sh7.8 billion theft involved officials who took advantage of the pandemic to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) at exorbitant prices.

It has been 18 months of waiting for prosecutions.

Both Houses conducted investigations into the matter, with the Senate report gathering dust on shelves while that of the National Assembly is yet to be debated and adopted.

National Assembly Public Investments Committee (PIC) chairman Abdulswamad Nassir told the Saturday Nation that Speaker Justin Muturi has assured him of action on the report.

“Our report is very clear on who to prosecute, who should not hold public office, who should be investigated and who should not be paid,” Mr Nassir said yesterday.

The PIC report is the last by a parliamentary team that investigated the Covid-19 millionaires scandal.

It was tabled in the House in September but no recommendations for top politicians and their allies involved in the scandal were made.

The PIC investigation was the third after that of the Health Committee and Senate.

The committee says it is only its report that recommends the return of the extra money paid to suppliers.

It now wants a multiagency team formed to look into the procurement of KN95 and surgical masks between March and July 2020.

The investigative team should comprise representatives of the Auditor General’s office, the Attorney General, Public Procurement Regulatory Authority and Treasury, the PIC says.

The lawmakers want the multi-agency team to analyse the amount of money Kemsa paid for the items.

“Companies that may have supplied Kemsa at prices higher than the recommended ones should make refunds within a month,” the report reads.

Mr Nassir said his committee saved taxpayers more than Sh3.9 billion excess payment to suppliers.

“This money should be recovered as soon as possible,” he said.

Director of Public Prosecutions, Noordin Haji, has been quoted as saying that individuals who benefited and orchestrated the Kemsa scandal would have their day in court “soon”, without giving a timeline.

Mr Haji said his office is working with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to have watertight evidence.

“My office returned the Kemsa files to the EACC to close some gaps. We want to take to court a case with evidence to convict those involved,” Mr Haji said.

Investigations into the scandal ordered by President Uhuru Kenyatta have become a circus.

No one has appeared in court for the Kemsa-related scandals even after Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu revealed massive procurement irregularities at the organisation.

President Kenyatta gave the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and other relevant State agencies 21 days to bring the masterminds of the Covid-19 millionaires scandal to book. That was in August last year.

Since the suspension of top Kemsa officials in August, they have continued to enjoy half their salaries as the DCI, DPP, EACC and other investigative agencies say they are gathering evidence.

The officials were suspended to pave the way for investigations after they were adversely mentioned in irregular payments relating to the purchase and supply of Covid-19 emergency equipment.

Mr Haji returned the inquiry files to EACC in October.

A report by the Auditor-General’s office tabled in the Senate in September 2021 showed Kemsa procured Covid-19 PPE at exaggerated prices, setting the stage for investigations into the loss of public funds.

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