NYS temporarily takes control of Kemsa

Mary Chao Mwadime

Chairperson  of the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority Board Mary Chao Mwadime addressing the media on November 4, 2021. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) on Thursday announced that all non-core staff will work from home for 30 days amid restructuring. 

Personnel from the National Youth Service (NYS) will manage operations at the agency on a temporary basis. 

In a move that has seen Kemsa employees pay the highest price for procurement scandals at the agency, about 600 staff being sent home for 30 days amid a restructuring. Kemsa has more than 900 workers and only 341 who provide essential services will be retained, the Nation has confirmed.

The rest will be “working from home”, and some employees said this means they have been fired. 

“How do you expect a procurement officer whose work involves signing and working with the suppliers to work from home yet you are not expected to carry documents home? We have been sacked. There is no working from home,” an employee said.

During a press briefing in Nairobi, the chairperson of Kemsa Board Mary Chao Mwadime said the move follows findings of a recent survey that revealed that the institute is underperforming and is unable to deliver services to Kenyans. 

Some of the problems revealed included, financial crisis, lack of financial control, uncollected debts, supply chain crisis, warehousing and distribution problems, deadstock and purchase of non-priority items.

“As the review gets underway and in compliance with legal requirements governing labour management, the Board has issued General Notice Letters to all staff working with Kemsa this morning,” she said. 

“All non-core staff members have been released to work from home with immediate effect as the necessary consultations progress.” 

A letter from Ms Mwadime to employees, titled “general notice of potential redundancies”, said the restructuring will involve assessing roles and determining the number of workers Kemsa needs.

“The changes will involve, among other things, re-examining the various roles played by each of (Kemsa’s) employees and re-designate the roles so as to achieve the objective of the restructuring and align the roles to the approved staff numbers,” the letter says.

Ms Mwadime clarified that the review may lead to some or all the positions being declared redundant.

Procurement scandal

Kemsa is still reeling from a procurement scandal in which managers are said to have irregularly awarded multimillion-shilling tenders for Covid-19 kits.

Ms Mwadime said Kemsa “is largely underperforming and unable to meet clients' urgent needs, particularly the delivery of essential medicines and products to the counties, referral hospitals and programmes”. 

“This has endangered the lives of Kenyans and is gravely threatening the realisation of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), which is critically predicated on a successful and optimally operating KEMSA,” she said.

It has also emerged that counties owe Kemsa millions of shillings and it is unable to collect the debts.