Senate demands probe into Sh63b medical scheme

Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki. [Photo, File]

The multi-billion shilling medical equipment leasing project was overpriced and five international companies contracted were single sourced, according to a Senate committee report.

The Ministry of Health has also been criticised for not conducting a needs assessment.

In light of these findings, the Senate wants former and current Cabinet secretaries Cleopa Mailu, Sicily Kariuki and James Macharia and Principal secretaries Peter Tum and Dr Nicholas Muraguri investigated for occasioning possible loss of funds.

Senators argued that the revelations into the under-dealings on the project point to a multi-billion shilling fraud and recommended a special audit to establish the actual loss.

SEE ALSO :KU Hospital to be a parastatal in new State plan

The Committee on Devolution, Health and Legal Affairs tabled a report that exposed serious gaps in procurement of the Sh63 billion Medical Equipment Services (MES) project.

Of concern to the senators is the variation in cost initially pegged at Sh38 billion but now projected to cost Sh63 billion.

“There is lack of disclosure. In some counties, there facility heads are not fully aware of the exact equipment they are benefit from. Some providers are suspected to have supplied incomplete sets of equipment,” reads the report tabled by Health committee chair Dr Michael Mbito (Trans Nzoia).

He continued: “The actual cost of the project should be clarified by the Ministry of Health, including the current cost of consumables, equipment maintenance and replacement of spare parts.”

The senator also took issue with over-pricing of the machines, saying outright purchase would have saved taxpayers billions.

SEE ALSO :Addressing challenges of substandard medical products

Mbito told the House that Sh20 billion has since been paid to date for supplies to 98 hospitals from 2015.

“A special audit be conducted on the project by the Auditor General Edward Ouko and report tabled in the Senate in 60 days,” the committee recommended.

“All CSs and PSs who served in the ministry from February 2015 to date be probed to properly assign responsibility for any gaps or impropriety.”

The committee also wants the five international firms isolated and contracts audited on a case by case basis to establish value for money.

The companies include Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics Company, Esteem Industries, Bellco SRL, Philips Me4dical Systems Nederland B.CV and GE East Africa Services Limited.

SEE ALSO :Afya House hit by Sh15b fee scandal

The lawmakers have recommended an extensive and indepth probe into the project by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

The senators want legal and administration actions taken against any person who may have directly or indirectly been involved in any impropriety in the MES contracting or implementation process.

Nyamira Senator Okongo Omogeni termed the project a scandal and demanded those involve be prosecuted.

Legal Affairs committee chair Samson Cherargei told the House that due diligence was not done in initiating the project.

The preliminary findings by the senators’ show that the MoUs signed between governors and the ministry are not legally binding yet they continue to receive equipment without any requisition.

SEE ALSO :How controversy dogged the health equipment deal

Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki (Tharaka/Nithi) ordered the Health committee to further probe the matter and table a report on February 26, 2019.

“I direct the Health committee to co-opt the legal committee chair and three of his members to conclude the probe. Individual senators should assert their authority by working with their respective counties to get the total list of equipment supplied and cost,” said Prof Kindiki.

Mbito-led committee said copies of MoUs signed by governors and tabled by Kariuki were cut and paste, and lacked Government official seals and witnesses.

“Former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto didn’t sign the MoU but his county continues to pay upfront and receive equipment,” said Mbito.

He continued: “Documents tabled by the CS related to MES require further scrutiny. There are missing lists of equipment to counties, variation in the cost of project after the seven year lease period and schedule of hospitals on board.”

Mbito told senators that despite MoH in September 2013 writing to the Council of Governors seeking to undertake an assessment and capacity of the hospitals in the project in the initial contract in 2015, there was no feasibility study done in counties and total sum revealed.

He criticised Health ministry, saying according to its document, the initial annual payment for the equipment through the counties vote was Sh6.3 billion when in actual sense it was Sh4.5 billion.

Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni), James Orengo (Siaya) and Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo) demanded tough recommendations with serious implications to cushion taxpayers from any loss.

Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki (Sicily KariukiCleopa MailuMedical Equipment ServicesNyamira Senator Okongo Omogeni