Mosquito nets deal bites PS, Kemsa bosses

Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) Embakasi warehouse, Nairobi

The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority Embakasi warehouse in Nairobi on December 1, 2020. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto has cracked the whip on scandal-plagued Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa), with Public Health Principal Secretary Josephine Mburu sent packing.

The Head of State yesterday also sacked the entire board of the State agency and suspended its chief executive officer, Ms Terry Ramadhani.

The sweeping changes come in the wake of a Sh3.7 billion botched tender for the supply of treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria among millions of low-income households.

The President terminated Ms Mburu’s appointment just a day after he vowed to clean up the firm, which has been embroiled in a series of corruption scandals.

He also revoked the appointment of Kemsa CEO Daniel Rono, just three months after he was appointed, as well as members of the disgraced board.

Dr Ruto immediately appointed Farmers Party leader Irungu Nyakera to replace Mr Rono.

“Watch this space. I am doing something. You will see results. I want to give you my commitment. I will clean Kemsa, whatever it takes, whatever it costs, I will clean it,” President Ruto said in an interview with various media houses on Sunday evening.

As part of the overhaul of the medical supplies agency, Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha also sent home other affected senior staff working under the National Malaria Programme and Kemsa at the Ministry of Health.

They include Mr Martin Wamwea, Mr Lenson Kariuki, Dr Pauline Duya, Mr Livingstone Njuguna and Dr Charles Kariuki Chege from the ministry. Mr Justus Kinoti, Mr Cosmas Rotich and Mr Anthony Chege are the Kemsa staff affected.

The CS also moved quickly to reconstitute the board, appointing Mr Hezbon Omollo, the elder brother of Interior PS Raymond Omollo, to the board alongside Mr Bernard Kipkirui Bett, Dr Jane Masiga and Ms Jane Nyagaturi Mbatia.

Dr Andrew Mulwa, Director of Medical Services, Preventive and Promotive Health, is the acting head of Kemsa, replacing Ms Ramadhani.

“The Head of State is committed to ushering in a new era in the management of our nation’s healthcare by ensuring that no Kenyan is denied the dignity of affordable medical care because of corruption,” a memo from Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Felix Koskei reads in part.

Mr Koskei described the purge as a move to promote accountability and openness at Kemsa to ensure efficiency in the provision of medical supplies to all health facilities across the country.

The latest saga at Kemsa has cost the state-owned company at least Sh370 million in revenue after the Global Fund cancelled the flawed procurement process, which favoured a bidder who did not meet mandatory requirements at the expense of a genuine mosquito net manufacturer.

The only company that met all the requirements of both Kenyan and Global Fund procurement laws and guidelines, China’s Tianjin Yorkool, was unfairly excluded from the tender evaluation.

The tender called for the winning bidder to supply 10.2 million treated bed nets to several counties by November this year.

But Kemsa’s mistakes have now led the Geneva-based organisation, which has moved the procurement to its online portal, to demand action against officials who botched the implementation.

Counties that were supposed to benefit from the Global Fund programme include Baringo, Kirinyaga, Marsabit, Turkana, Kilifi, Kwale, Mombasa, Lamu, Tana River, Siaya, Kisumu, Migori, Busia, Nyamira, Kisii, Uasin Gishu and West Pokot. Others are Narok, Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Taita Taveta, Elgeyo Marakwet and Homa Bay.

In March last year, the Global Fund accused Kemsa of failing to account for 908,000 mosquito nets, 1.1 million condoms and Sh10 million worth of tuberculosis drugs that went missing from its warehouse.

The Global Fund also raised a red flag over suspected fake suppliers who demanded Sh1.66 billion from Kemsa.

The missing drugs are believed to have been stolen and resold on the black market and to private chemists. The organisation also accused Kemsa of overstating the value of medicines by Sh640 million, with some types of drugs being inflated 100 times.

The revelations come as Kemsa is still struggling to clean up its image after another tender fraud saga over the procurement of Covid-19 medical supplies in 2020. The Covid-19 procurement mess saw several politically connected individuals bag billions of dollars in deals whose value for money has yet to be established.

As a result, in May last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) called for a fresh audit of Covid-19 spending, even as a new report showed that Sh17 billion worth of stocks at the state-owned company were unaccounted for.

The IMF had given Kenya Sh173 billion between March 2020, when the first case of the virus was reported in the country, and December 2021.

One of the biggest scandals of ex-president Uhuru Kenyatta’s 10-year rule, the "Covid millionaires" scandal involved officials who took advantage of the pandemic to buy personal protective equipment at exorbitant prices.

The scandal prompted investigations by both houses of Parliament, with both the Senate and National Assembly reports gathering dust on the shelves and the masterminds of the heist yet to be brought to book.