What you need to know:
- Mr Manjari told a joint Senate committee of health and Covid-19 that he would occasionally receive phone calls and text messages from either Mr Kagwe or Ms Mochache on issues related to procurement of Covid-19-related materials.
- Mr Gitura told MPs on Thursday that Kemsa received a letter dated April 15 signed by PS Mochache with details on how to go about the procurement.
Suspended Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) chief executive officer Jonah Manjari on Friday directly linked Health CS Mutahi Kagwe and PS Susan Mochache to the multibillion-shilling Covid-19 scandal.
Mr Manjari told a joint Senate committee of health and Covid-19 that he would occasionally receive phone calls and text messages from either Mr Kagwe or Ms Mochache on issues related to procurement of Covid-19-related materials.
The suspended CEO narrated to the senators how the text messages and calls would come – fast and furious – loaded with a lot of pressure directing the medical agency to act in a particular way.
“We received requests from CS Kagwe and PS Mochache mostly through phone calls and SMS to distribute commodities in hotspots. All these things came with pressure,” Mr Manjari told the committee at the Senate chambers.
He also admitted that most procurement of Covid-19-related materials such as PPEs done by the agency around March and April did not follow the correct procedure of tendering due the urgency.
Mr Manjari’s admission that he received instructions from PS Mochache comes just a day after Kemsa board, led by chairman Kembi Gitura, told the National Assembly that they received a letter from the PS directing them on where to procure, quantities of materials and price of Covid-19 materials.
The accusations levelled against the PS place her at the centre of the investigations ordered by President Uhuru Kenyatta to unravel faceless individuals who benefited from the pandemic billions.
Mr Gitura told MPs on Thursday that Kemsa received a letter dated April 15 signed by PS Mochache with details on how to go about the procurement.
The embattled PS is expected to appear before the National Assembly health committee next week to answer to the contents of the letter she allegedly wrote to the supplies agency.
“We have invited her for a meeting next week,” said the Senate health committee chairperson Mbito Michael Malinga confirmed to the Nation.
Nandi senator Samson Cherargei said both the PS and CS Kagwe must appear before them to explain their role in the procurement scandal.
“If it is true that some people used the pandemic to perpetuate corruption, then that is immoral and the thunder that was waiting to strike them is still doing press ups in heaven,” Mr Cherargei said.
“As a committee, we are ready to make punitive recommendations that will nail perpetrators of this act. We will even follow them to their graves if they dies,” he added
The embattled CEO, who ducked the committee last week following his admission at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), however defended the procurements done under his tenure saying they were under emergency circumstances.
“There was panic in the country at that particular time, we did not even know masks would be used to prevent Covid-19. We started by giving out commitment letter to companies who had the commodities needed,” Mr Manjari told the committee.
Senators were furious with Kemsa board, together with the management, after it also emerged that the agency spent Sh7.2 billion on procurement of Covid-19 materials without approval.
The board, according to Mr Gitura, who appeared alongside Mr Manjari said they only approved Sh4.5 billion budget to be used by the management and were kept in the dark over any additional expenditure.
“Yes, they (management) exceeded the budget which the board did not approve. All of us must understand that there was a pandemic in the country and there was need to procure PPEs,” Mr Gitura said.
Mr Gitura defended the board against accusations that they looked the other way as the management went on a spending spree, saying their work is not to micro-manage the affairs of the management.
“The board can only give advice and directions on how things are done. We cannot micro-manage these people by asking them things like how many beds they bought,” Mr Gitura said.
“I had no reason to suspect that something was going wrong then and even now I have no reason because the DCI, DPP and Auditor-General are going on with the investigations and we are waiting for the outcome,” Mr Gitura said.
Kisumu senator Fred Outa dismissed the assertions by the board chairman that they were helpless in the situation saying they failed Kenyans in ensuring that taxpayers’ money is used well.
“The board cannot run away from this. How did they allow the management to commit the organisation into billions? How then is the board helping Kenyans in safeguarding their money if they are saying they couldn’t do anything,” Mr Outa said.
“The CEO committed the organisation into procurement worth billions without due regard to the law. Is this the correct way to spend public money?” posed Trans Nzoia senator Michael Mbito
The medical supplies agency is on the spot after it procured the N95 (1860) masks at Sh1,300 each against the market price of Sh700.
The agency paid Sh700 for the KN95 mask that goes for Sh450 on the higher side. The agency ordered 1.84 million of the items. The prices should be lower considering that the agency is procuring in bulk for many counties. The disposable 3-ply surgical masks were procured at Sh90 per piece against the market price of Sh50 when bought in bulk.