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Fears as fresh row hits Sh40b ARV tender

By | April 2nd 2009 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

By David Ohito

The fight against HIV and Aids ran into problems after a row emerged over the Sh40 billion US-funded Antiretroviral (ARV) programme.

The tender for the five-year supply of the essential drugs has been rocked by claims of unfair bidding.

The Barrack Obama administration’s Government Accountability Office ordered a corrective action after Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies (Meds), which has been handling the ARV supply since 2004, was blocked in unclear circumstances.

Meds is a faith-based non-profit organization, which has successfully supplied the country’s more than 50 per cent ARVs for the last four years.

Details surrounding the Sh40 billion international tender emerged after a US firm, Chemonics Inc, was awarded the lucrative deal yet it had no presence or experience in the management and supply chain of Antiretroviral Therapy in Kenya.

As the sick continue to suffer, the infighting between the Ministries of Medical Services and Public Health was cited as compounding the problem of donor health support due to lack of accountability.

The ministers are Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o and Mrs Beth Mugo.

Grim scenario

The picture looked even gloomier after the Global Fund Project, which has been supplementing the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar), suspended funding due to lack of accountability by the Government.

Meds warned that action by USAid would likely result in major interruptions in the continuous supply of essential ART commodities to patients.

"Patients have enjoyed uninterrupted drug supply for over four years. But we are reading political games, which will affect the supply chain," said Meds MD Pascal Manyuru.

"The impact of the disruption of supply chain means Kenyans are being consigned to slow and avoidable deaths," Manyuru added.

The US Government policy has been based on a commitment to support local organisations fighting HIV and Aids.

Yesterday, the National Aids and Sexually Transmitted Programme Director Nicholas Muraguri allayed fears that supply of the ARVs would be interrupted.

"The USAid tenders are internal matters I would not want to interfere with. But we have ARV supplies enough for nine months," Dr Muraguri said.

"I have no fear there would be interruption of supply of drugs. US is sensitive about procurement procedures. It is their right to award tenders to winners of bids," Muraguri said.

Reviewed stocks

He explained that his office reviewed stocks on a monthly basis, but warned the biggest crisis was that 75 per cent of those eligible for treatment were not on drugs.

Muraguri deflected questions on the row and instead said attention should be on the 80 per cent of Kenyans who are infected, but do not know their status. He said many people were dying because they do not know their status.

He said up to 44 per cent of couples live with partners who are discordant, which is a cause for worry.

The supply chains for the management of HIV and Aids commodities has been, for the last four years, carried out by local organisations under Pepfar and rated one of the most successful projects in Africa.

It was not immediately clear what the results for the evaluation committee were and whether Chemonics was cleared to proceed with the tender.

Documents made available to The Standard showed USAid Contracting Officer Bruce McFarland had agreed to take action following the protest by Meds.

Yesterday, the USAid responded to our queries on the supply of ARVs saying: "As a result of a standard, competitive bidding process, Kenya Mission is putting in place a new contract for the provision of ARVs under the President’s Emergency Plan."

"Beneficiaries of this programme would not experience breaks in supply of the medication," said a statement from Patterson Inmi.

The US has been the largest contributor to Kenya’s national HIV response since 2004, Patterson added.

The programme is the largest bilateral contributor to the fight against HIV in Kenya.


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