On April 6, 2020, Margaret Muchemi walked into the Kemsa offices in Embakasi at exactly 9.42am with a letter of intent to supply personal protective equipment (PPE).
By evening, she walked out with a tender to supply Sh4 billion worth of PPE awarded to Kilig Limited, a company she worked for and whose ownership changed hands four times in four months.
The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) did not do any due diligence on Kilig, including finding out its financial capability to supply the goods, asking for copies of CR12 (form showing shareholding ) or any other documents required for pre-qualification.
These revelations were made by 27-year-old Ivy Minyow, who claimed to be one of the owners of Kilig when she appeared before the National Assembly Public Investment Committee yesterday (PIC), as MPs sought to unravel the Covid scandal at Kemsa.
The ownership of the company, which was registered on January 22, 2020, and is located at Methodist Ministry Centre, Block A 1st Floor, was the subject of intense debate, as Ms Minyow initially took MPs in circles, refusing to reveal the real owners of the company.
Ms Minyow told the Abdulswamad Nassir-led committee that she assumed the role of a director of Kilig from one Collins Wanjala on May 6, 2020, but before then, the committee heard that the company had other directors.
“I’m aware that Collins did not register the company, there were other owners,” she told the MPs.
It is these directors that Ms Minyow refused to name, saying doing so would go against a commitment she signed with her clients when she was their legal officer before later assuming the role of director.
“You can’t be a witness and counsel for this company at the same time. You can’t enjoy both privileges otherwise we will conclude that you are trying to obstruct justice,” charged Ruaraka MP TJ Kajwang’.
With temperatures boiling, Ms Minyow was given three minutes to reveal the people who sold the company to her. She requested for time to call the directors. On coming back after around 10 minutes, Ms Minyow said: “I have spoken to one of them who has told me not to divulge any information on the original owners. I cannot reach the other director because he is outside the country,” Ms Minyow told the MPs, who sat pensively, and hawk-eyed journalists who were waiting for the names.
The remarks by Ms Minyow further irked the lawmakers who insisted that she has to reveal the identities of the owners of Kilig.
Ms Minyow grudgingly revealed that the original owners who registered Kilig were Wilbroad Gatei Gachoka and Zhu Jinping, a Chinese.
These two initial directors later sold the company to other people who the committee was not told.
It is the faceless directors that later sold the company to Mr Wanjala who finally transferred full ownership to Ms Minyow.
Chance to speak
Mr Omwansa, one of the legal counsels for Ms Minyow, tried to weigh in in a bid to protect his client from the barrage of questions by lawmakers, but he was repulsed by Mr Nassir who told him that he is only allowed to tell his client what to say, but he is not allowed to speak.
“You will not teach me how to do my work. You are not even allowed to speak here, but we have been kind enough to allow you to confer with your client,” Mr Nassir told the lawyer.
The lawyer was complaining that he should be given a chance to speak for his client.
“Mr chairman, if this committee operates as the High Court, then it is only fair that I should be allowed to speak,”Mr Omwansa said.
Ms Minyow admitted to the committee that Kilig had never engaged in any business before bagging the Kemsa deal.
“So this is a company that walked into Kemsa with no documentation to show who they are, no proven financial capability, no CR12 but walked away with a commitment letter?” posed Ms Nassir.
Kilig is among companies whose commitment letters were issued directly by the office suspended CEO Jonah Manjari, without the knowledge of the procurement department. Ms Minyow said that despite getting the commitment letter, Kemsa cancelled it on April 20 stating that Kilig had no capacity to deliver.
However, the company went to Kemsa seeking for an extension, arguing that they had issues with logistics as their suppliers in China had problems delivering the materials since air travel was cut off by most countries.
On April 23, the committee heard that Kilig got a second commitment letter, however, on June 30, it was cancelled again. Kilig, however, wrote an appeal letter to Kemsa on July 1. It is not clear whether they were granted another commitment letter.
The director of La Miguela Holdings Ltd, a firm that won a Sh500 million tender, said a house he is building on Kenyatta Road could be auctioned because he took a loan to supply Kemsa but can’t repay because he hasn’t been paid.
Mr James Njuguna Kuria said he did “clean” business thinking he was helping out during a pandemic.