Covid scandal: Kemsa bosses blame Health PS Susan Mochache

Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache addressing journalists when she received a donation of Covid-19 kits from the Government of the Republic of Korea at Afya house on June 18,2020.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The Kemsa managers, led by board chairman Kembi Gitura, said Ms Mochache ordered the agency to exclusively procure Covid-19 related from specific companies and at set prices.
  • Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny said the directive by the ministry amounted to an irregularity as it flouted the tender rules.

The names and faces of officials who may have presided over multi-billion-shilling Covid-19 scandals have started coming to light as investigations gather steam.

On Thursday, bosses at the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa), where the bulk of irregular procurement of supplies happened, placed Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache at the centre of the scams.

The Kemsa managers, led by board chairman Kembi Gitura, said Ms Mochache ordered the agency to exclusively procure Covid-19 related from specific companies and at set prices. 

Loss of billions

Appearing before the National Assembly’s Health Committee over alleged loss of billions of shillings, the management absolved itself from any procurement irregularity, saying, they took orders from Ms Mochache.

Mr Gitura told the committee that the agency received a letter in April from the PS with details on how to go about the procurement.

Quality of PPEs

Mr Gitura told the team, chaired by Ms Sabina Chege, that the letter from the PS had instructions on what to buy, where and at what cost, a move he said was not procedural as the medical agency is not supposed to be directed on what to do by the ministry.

“We received a letter from the Ministry of Health containing a list where we should procure from, the prices and the quantity. I can vouch on the quality of PPEs we procured,” Mr Gitura said.

Mr Gitura admitted that, although the directive by the PS was irregular, it does not amount to an illegality of the procurement of PPEs done by Kemsa.

In the latter dated April 15 addressed to suspended CEO Jonah Manjari, which the Nation saw, Ms Mochache said the World Bank had identified and approved various items to be procured.

“This is to approve the procurement of goods worth Sh758, 690,583 as outlined in the annex. Disregard all other requests made in relation to Covid-19 as they have been captured under this approval,” the PS’s letter reads.

Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny said the directive by the ministry amounted to an irregularity as it flouted the tender rules.

“The money should have been given to Kemsa and a tender floated for companies to bid,” Mr Kutuny said.

The Health ministry had during its appearance before the committee denied directing Kemsa on what to buy. The committee has now invited the PS back to authenticate the letter she allegedly signed and sent to Kemsa.

Documents tabled before the committee indicate that companies such as  Tikasan Holdings Co Ltd, KEMA Ltd, Medilab and Applied Products have already pocketed millions of shillings for the supply of PPEs to the agency.

For instance, according to the document Kemsa tabled, Tikasan got Sh4.4 million, and Applied Products Sh417, 000.

Other firms that supplied various items and are awaiting payment include F and S Scientific Ltd (Sh25.4 million), Chemoquip Ltd (Sh4.1 million), Faram Limited (Sh3.2 million) among others.

Protective gear

MPs were told Kemsa is still holding stock of PPEs worth Sh6.2 billion in its warehouse despite majority of healthcare workers across the country lacking the protective gear.

The agency is on the spot after it procured the N95 (1860) masks at Sh1, 300 against the market price of Sh700 apiece. It paid Sh700 for the KN95 mask that goes for 450 on the higher side. The agency ordered 1,836,400 of these.

The prices should be lower considering that Kemsa was buying in bulk.

The disposable three-ply surgical masks were bought at Sh90 apiece against the market price of Sh50 when bought in bulk.

A study by the Health ministry and World Health Organization done last year revealed that some drugs in Kenya were being sold at double the international prices, or even higher.

Dr Manjari was suspended alongside directors Eliud Muriithi (Commercial) and Charles Juma (Procurement). National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi directed the Health and Public Investments Committees to launch investigations into the scandals.

Mr Muturi said it is the duty of MPs as outlined under article 95 to oversight how funds given to various agencies are used

No time to waste

“The National Assembly is appalled by the alleged misuse of ... resources and the Health Committee and the Public Investment committee must move with speed and offer leadership on this matter. We have no time to waste,” Mr Muturi said.

Mr Gitura told MPs that the agency should not be vilified without facts and that the investigating agencies must be allowed to complete investigations.

“We shall take responsibility if and when required. So far people are just speaking without facts,” Mr Gitura said.

He said they are ready to open all their warehouses across the country for the public to confirm that all PPEs bought by the government and those donated are intact.

smundu@ke.nationmedia.com

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