Kemsa suspends CEO, 2 directors over Covid-19 procurements probe

Kemsa CEO Jonah Manjari
Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The board appointed Operations Director Edward Njoroge Njuguna the acting CEO, George Walukana the acting Commercial Director and Edward Buluma the acting Procurement Director.
  • Kemsa said it would cooperate with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and other agencies in the probe.

The multi billion shilling Covid-19 tender scandal at the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) has claimed its first casualties after the agency’s board sent home its chief executive, Dr Jonah Manjari.

The board of directors on Friday suspended the CEO alongside directors Eliud Muriithi (Commercial) and Charles Jume (Procurement) as anti-graft officers’ piece together a case against individuals who have looted billions of shillings.

Mr Muriithi and Mr Juma were ordered to step aside until detectives identify beneficial owners, believed to be Kemsa employees, of the companies favoured during the tendering process.

The board’s chairperson Kembi Gitura said the three were asked to step aside after a special meeting to allow the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to complete investigations on Covid-19 procurement irregularities and alleged misuse of funds.

“We had a special board meeting to discuss issues to do with Covid-19. We realise that the public had an extreme interest in what's going on, more so when it comes to procurement issues,” Mr Gitura said.

Cooperation

The board chair added that seven directors have since recorded statements with the EACC, which wrote to the board and asked that the three be suspended for the probe.

“Should they be charged in court, we will sit and make further decisions,” said Mr Gitura.

The board appointed the current Operations director, Mr Edward Njoroge Njuguna, as the acting chief executive for a period not exceeding six months.

George Walukana was appointed the acting Commercial director and Edward Buluma the acting Procurement director.

“Nothing is going to stop. Everything will continue but we want to give Kenyans and developing partners assurance that we are committed in ensuring the truth is out and that we are not going to protect anybody who is found to be culpable.”

Kemsa said it would cooperate with the EACC and other agencies in the probe.

"We are not going to protect anybody found culpable and any such persons shall face consequences," the chair said, adding "we are not going to victimise innocent persons just because there has been public outcry."

Key issues

It emerged Friday that a number of the companies handed contracts do not exist.

The Nation broke the story on the procurement mess at the agency, which saw companies registered four months earlier hand-picked and given contracts to supply Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and other assorted items.

Twelve firms were awarded contracts worth Sh3 billion by Kemsa to deliver items that were not covered in its 2019/20 approved budget as at June 4, with some multi million-shilling irregular bids going to friends and well-connected individuals.

There is also another Sh4 billion contract awarded to a little known company fronted by a vocal Jubilee politician.

The deal would later leak to investigative agencies, but it was too late since the agency had already put pen to paper and the ink had dried.

Dr Manjari would then quickly take a hasty retreat to cancel the deal after it became clear that Kilig had been given more than it could chew and lacked the capacity to deliver even a single kit.

Most of the items were bought at more than two times their actual price, under the cloud of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Statements recorded

The fraud at the agency has attracted several investigative agencies besides the EACC. These are the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and parliament. The Auditor-General has also been asked to carry out an independent probe.

The EACC confirmed to the Nation that it was investigating Kemsa and that seven executives have already recorded statements.

They include Mr Muriithi, Mr Njoroge, Mr Juma, Samuel Kungu (ICT manager), Douglas Onyancha (director, medical commodities programme), Fredrick Wanyonyi (director, legal services) and Nahashon Karanja (director, finance and strategy).

The Nation has also learnt that the multiple investigations have met various challenges after it emerged that some of the people who were handed the contracts are connected to State House and the first family.

They are also the billionaires who have run the health ministry from the shadows and run roughshod over internal auditors and anyone who wants to interfere with the procurement party at Afya House, where the real graft resides.

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