Revealed: Kemsa procures PPEs at double market price

The Kenya Medical Supply Authority is on the spot after a special audit unearthed procurement and financial irregularities that put at risk over Sh100 billion of donor funds. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The agency also bought KN95 masks at Sh700 per piece which in the market goes Sh450 on the higher side. Kemsa ordered for 1,836,400 masks.
  • Kemsa procured disposable surgical masks at Sh90 per piece against the market price of Sh50.

The Kenya Medical Supply Authority (Kemsa), which buys drugs for all public health facilities in the country, is on the spot again for procuring Covid-19 emergency items at exorbitant prices, the Nation has learnt.

According to documents seen by the Nation, the agency procured the N95 (1860) masks at an outrageous price of Sh1,300 per piece against the Sh700 market price.

Kemsa ordered 5,000 pieces, investigation by the Nation reveals.

The agency also bought KN95 masks at Sh700 per piece which in the market goes Sh450 on the higher side. Kemsa ordered for 1,836,400 masks.

Kemsa procured disposable surgical masks at Sh90 per piece against the market price of Sh50.

When Kemsa CEO Jonnah Manjari Mwangi was being grilled by National Health Committee, the members requested to know why he was procuring the personal protective equipment at Sh9,000 yet the same was going for Sh4,500 in the market.

Dr Mwangi indicated that they were buying quality items unlike those sold in the market where one is not sure of their quality and who supplied the items.

Healthcare workers have, however, accused the Health ministry of supplying them with substandard personal protective equipment, exposing them and the public  to the deadly virus.

As of Wednesday, total of 429 health workers had tested positive for Covid-19. Four others, a doctor, two nurses, and two clinical officers, have succumbed to the virus.

“We have 429 staff members who have tested positive, which is about 4.1 per cent of all the cases, and we want to set up isolation centres to make sure the staff are well taken care of in the event that they test positive for Covid-19,” acting Health Director-General Patrick Amoth said earlier this week.

Maurice Opetu, the secretary-general of the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (Kuco), said the equipment delivered to the health workers in Kisumu by the Ministry of Health were of poor quality, putting them at high risk of contracting the virus.

He said the equipment had been tested by the technical team and was found wanting.

“We are in this together, but in order to protect the lives of Kenyans and health workers, we must ensure that the equipment is validated and certified,” he said.

The National Nurses Association of Kenya is now calling upon the Kenya Bureau of Standards to retest the quality and standard of the masks.

"We want Kisumu Country to be barred from distributing the masks to healthcare workers until standards analysis report is provided that the masks fully meet the World Health Organisation specification for the masks," said Collins Ajwang who is the chairman of NNAK Kisumu branch.

Kemsa was given the mandate to procure PPEs on behalf of the Ministry of Health, which are then supplied to the counties.

The House Committee on Health had approved Sh1.5 billion allocation to Kemsa for the procurement of testing kits and face masks for Covid-19 response.

The approval was made as the House approved the Third Supplementary Appropriations Bill 2020, to regularize the expenditure Sh18.26 from the consolidated fund for the 2019/20 financial year.

While Kemsa was established to plan, procure and distribute drugs to public health facilities, significant governance issues, pricing of pharmaceuticals and non-pharmaceutical might lead to its fall.

Due to an amendment to the law that barred county governments from buying medical supplies from any agency except Kemsa, hospitals have been facing drug shortage.

The Nation also learnt that there is over 70 per cent variance of prices between Kemsa and other suppliers.

Even when a county is spending its own money as is laid out in the Constitution, Kemsa is supposed to give them approval to buy from other entities.

The 2013 Kemsa Act, amended in May 2019, introduced a jail term of two years or a penalty of Sh2 million for anyone who defies the decree and buys from other entities.

Now, health experts say the bill signed in May 2019 was a carefully hatched plan to keep monopoly in the hands of a few people at the Health ministry.

Some sources in the government are questioning the timing and the position of the bill just before the launch of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Kemsa was given 70 per cent of the billions for UHC to provide counties with medicine.

 “The restrictions on where to buy medicine is ‘for quality assurance’ so that counties do not purchase the medicine that was not fit for use,” said a statement from Kemsa.

“Those are the rules, we do not question,” read the statement.