Rein in Kemsa to save taxpayers' billions

Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) in Industrial Area, Nairobi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The Global Fund has reported that 908,000 mosquito nets, 1.1 million condoms and tuberculosis drugs worth Sh10 million have disappeared from a Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) warehouse.

Glocal Fund, which finances the fight against HIV/Aids, TB and malaria, also raised the red flag over suspected fake suppliers demanding Sh1.66 million from Kemsa. On Tuesday, Kemsa acting Chief Executive Officer John Kabuchi told MPs that the authority was staring at a Sh1.5 billion loss because of dead stock.

All these reports are an indication of fresh rot at Kemsa, which was plagued with corruption allegations last year involving procurement of Covid-19 equipment. After the exposé on the corruption allegations, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered a clean-up at the agency, which led to the sacking of the Board chairman and CEO.

However, that Kemsa can now report that stock worth Sh171.9 million has expired and additional stock worth Sh1.2 billion are set to expire in the next six months is a clear indication that the clean-up ordered by the President is far from achieving its objectives.

It is even more worrying that medical supplies are allowed to expire in a country where most health facilities are always running short of crucial drugs and equipment.

In January, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the ongoing clean-up is meant to end corruption, enhance efficiency and create value for Kenyans' money. Now the CS needs to give specific timelines on when the exercise is expected to end so that the agency can get back to serving Kenyans effectively.

A national agency such as Kemsa is charged with the responsibility of protecting the country's resources. Therefore, for it to abet such waste, it means it is not worth being in place anymore. If we cannot see the fruits of the clean-up then the government could as well just do an overhaul at the authority.

The government needs to know the country expects it to do the right thing and the people will not tire from reminding it to do so.