Covid millionaires scandal: Senate team recommends investigation into CEO, five others

Jonah Manjari

Suspended Kemsa CEO Jonah Manjari.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The Senate's standing committee on health has recommended that investigative agencies look into suspended Kemsa (Kenya Medical Supplies Authority) chief executive, Jonah Manjari, and five other officials over alleged procurement irregularities.

The other five are Charles E. Juma (Director, Procurement), Eliud Mureithi (Director, Commercial Services), Fredrick Wanyonyi (Corporation Secretary/Director, Legal Services), Edward Njoroge Njuguna (Director, Operations) and Waiganjo Karanja (Director, Finance and Strategy).

Assails CEO, board

The senate team made the recommendations in a report tabled in Parliament Tuesday morning after concluding its inquiry into the scandal, and has accused Mr Manjari of masterminding a Sh7.6 billion scandal on the procurement of Covid-19 medical equipment. In particular, it assails Mr Manjari, accusing him of having run a one-man show at the agency, leading to the Sh7.63 billion scandal.

Kembi Gitura

Former Murang'a Senator Kembi Gitura. He was the Kemsa board chairman at the time of the scandal. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

It has also indicted the Kemsa Board, at the time chaired by former Murang'a senator Kembi Gitura, of incompetence and failing to oversight the agency's management. The report notes that the suspended CEO took advantage of weak oversight by the board to flout procurement laws leading to loss of billions of taxpayers’ money.

“The CEO took advantage of the disconnect and lack of an effective mechanism to undertake procurement of Covid-19 related items without an existing budget and beyond the Kemsa capital budget,” the report notes, adding that there is need for better oversight of the agency by the Ministry of Health.

The report details the disconnect between the Board and the CEO and in particular, the lack of timely reporting on the part of Mr Manjari with respect to the utilisation of funds for procurement of Covid-19 supplies. 

“The fact that Ministry and the Board of Kemsa were only engaged after the irregularities had taken place meant that any measures taken were only reactive as opposed to preventive or pro-active resolutions.”

The report states that Mr Gitura and his Board ought to have known about the procurement processes that had been carried out by the CEO and the board of management. 

“The fact that the chairperson wrote to the Health CS informing him that Kemsa had utilised the monies meant for the UHC programme to finance the purchase of Covid-19 related items and further, by failing to take the necessary 13 administrative action against the CEO, and the board of management meant that Mr Gitura failed to exercise effective oversight.”

Mr Manjari is accused of ignoring the Ministry of Health, bypassing the board and ignored his juniors’ advise in the procurements. 

The senate report also claims that the CEO could have colluded with some private companies to dish out tenders without due diligence.

For this reason, it has recommended that the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) investigate the companies that were awarded tenders by Kemsa to determine if there was any collusion between the Mr Manjari, the Kemsa board and directors of the firms in contravention of procurement rules.