A parliamentary team investigating the usage of Covid-19 funds was yesterday informed of a company that bagged a Sh50 million tender by phone even as the firm claimed a number of the committee members once worked for it.
Crown Healthcare Services MD Shilen Thakerar told the National Assembly Public Investments Committee that the firm employed the MPs about 20 years ago but was quick to add that they did not influence the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) tender.
Pressed by committee chairman Abdulswamad Nassir to name the lawmakers, Mr Thakerar said he could only remember Matungulu MP Stephen Mule.
The phone call came around March 18, 2020 through Ms Pamela Kabiru a secretary of suspended Kemsa procurement manager Charles Juma, he said.
Mr Thakerar added that Mr Juma called Crown Healthcare Services and asked it to supply gloves and ventilators.
He said Ms Kabiru phoned Crown Healthcare employees Julius Anyona and Roslyn Ngugi to seal the deal.
“They called and then sent an email to confirm we had the items. We never requested to supply them,” Mr Thakerar said.
He said his firm later got two commitment letters from Kemsa and installed ventilators at Kenyatta National, Nairobi West and Coast General hospitals.
Mr Thakerar defended Crown Healthcare against irregularities, saying many regulations were not followed because the country was battling a pandemic.
“We have operated for 20 years and have been Kemsa suppliers for a decade,” he said.
Mr Thakerar said Crown Healthcare has not been paid due to the ongoing investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.
Mr Juma had earlier told the committee that he did not issue commitment letters as Kemsa chief executive Jonah Manjari took up the role. Mr Manjari is also on suspension.
“When the pandemic struck, we had around 20 ventilators and allocated four units to KNH at the request of Kemsa,” Mr Thakerar said.
Mr Thakerar’s legal officer Brian Sitima said a letter of commitment is not a legal document “but the company will prove that it supplied the items legally”.
“The price of ventilators supplied to Kemsa and Nairobi West Hospital was the same,” he said.
The Auditor-General has been told to explain why a figure relating to one of the Kemsa suppliers’ materials was changed.
The committee was told that Nanopay supplied Kemsa with 50,000 pieces of N95 masks at Sh340 million, which was changed to Sh34.9 million.
An officer representing Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu said there was a typing error in the initial report.
An addendum sent to the National Assembly by the Auditor-General shows there was an error in the special report on the utilisation of coronavirus funds by the medical supplies authority.
“We wish to clarify an error occurring on pages 18 and 41 of the special report on the amount relating to Nanopay,” reads the addendum to the committee signed by Ms Gathungu.
What raised eyebrows in the lawmakers is that the figure of the little-known Shop ‘N’ Buy was also changed.
Mr Nassir immediately directed the Auditor-General to present a full report detailing the errors as soon as possible.
“We need to know what happened. It is in the public domain and documents presented by Kemsa to this committee that Nanopay got tenders valued at Sh340 million,” Ms Nassir said.
Likoni MP Mishi Mboko doubted the “typing error” explanation, saying the country has suffered as a result of human mistakes, usually blamed on computers.
“How is this a typing error? How can a ‘zero’ be missing? These reports are done by qualified officers. They are checked and counter-checked before being presented for signing,” she said.
“We are tired of this excuse. Every time there is a mistake, people claim it is a typing error. We need an explanation.”