War on corruption: Azimio Western leaders hail President Ruto’s action on Kemsa, Kebs

President William Ruto

President William Ruto briefs the media after holding Bilateral talks with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at State House on May 18, 2023.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Azimio leaders from the Western region have urged President William Ruto to intensify the purge of suspected corrupt officials in government and ensure that those implicated in graft are prosecuted.

Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa, his deputy Ayub Savula and Kisumu Deputy Governor Mathew Owili said the investigations into the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) were a step in the right direction.

The leaders who spoke in Kakamega on Friday said the decision by President Ruto to disband the Kemsa board and suspend its Chief Executive Officer Terry Ramadhani and Principal Secretary for Public Health Josphine Mburu had sent a strong signal on how he intended to deal with corruption in his administration.

The move came after details were released on the bungled Sh3.7 billion tender for the supply of treated mosquito nets intended to help millions of low-come households to prevent malaria.

The scandal has also cost the State corporation at least Sh370 million in revenue.

The tender financed by Global Fund was to see the winning bidder supply 10.2 million treated mosquito nets but blunders by Kemsa have now seen the Geneva-based organisation demand action against officials who bungled its implementation.

Governor Barasa, Mr Savula and Mr Owili called on Dr Ruto to extend the crackdown to other government departments.

Mr Barasa said the move by the President was commendable and should be supported by all leaders irrespective of party affiliations.

The county chief called for the amendment of the law to provide for the procurement of drugs by counties which then will be delivered to Kemsa for warehousing and distribution to health facilities.

Unscrupulous members of staff

“This is the only way to deal with the deep-rooted corruption at Kemsa. Some unscrupulous members of staff at Kemsa are starving counties of drugs because of corruption,” said Mr Barasa.

He said corruption was thriving in the country because when those implicated are often set free by courts citing lack of enough evidence.

“President Ruto needs to be supported to fight graft. Let the courts help the President because they have remained behind in the war against corruption. It is demoralising when people who are implicated in scandals walk from the dock a few days after they are arraigned,” said Mr Savula.

Kemsa is still reeling from the flawed procurement of Covid-19 drugs and personal protective gear that rocked the agency at the peak of the pandemic, in which the country lost over Sh2.3 billion.

The leaders said President Ruto had shown he was determined to deal firmly with corruption after he suspend 27 officials linked to the disappearance of 20,000 (50kg) bags of suspected contaminated sugar imported in 2018 but which was flagged by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) for being unfit for human consumption.

Mr Owili said: “We support the purge that we saw in Kemsa and we support Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha for her stance. We urge the President to remain firm in the fight against corruption.”

The Ministry of Health report indicates that 70 percent of the population is at constant risk from malaria, especially children under the age of five and pregnant women.

The report further indicates that 10,700 Kenyans die from malaria each year and those living in Western Kenya have a higher risk of malaria infection.