Reforms at Kemsa will be painful but are set to bear fruit soon

Mary Mwadime, Chairperson of Kenya Medical Supplies Authority.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Kenyans woke up to a realisation that the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) was reeling from graft. The days that followed saw a national outcry and the reconstitution of the Kemsa board to provide oversight and policy direction. President Uhuru Kenyatta was concerned that Kemsa was treading on thin ice.

At the inauguration, the board was tasked to oversee a rapid results programme that would facilitate the transformation of the authority.

It would never be business as usual at a State firm that was teetering on the brink of a healthcare disaster. Media reports and accounts from clients, mostly county and national Referral hospitals, painted a picture of a warisome entity.

This has endangered the lives of Kenyans - threatening the realisation of Universal Health Coverage goals.

Kemsa handles drugs supply chain needs of more than 8,000 health facilities countrywide through a last-mile delivery service. However, an independent review of its operating capacity a team of experts established that the agency is underperforming and unable to meet client needs.

The experts under the Kemsa Immediate Action Plan and Medium Term Reforms Working Committee confirmed that operational challenges are borne out of deeply-rooted systemic issues that touch on the integrity of Kemsa’s procurement, warehousing and distribution, ICT systems and procedures.

The report indicated that systemic challenges have gravely impacted Kemsa’s ability to meet its obligations.

This is demonstrated by indicators such as the declining order fill rate, prolonged order turn-around time, cash-flow crisis, low staff productivity, amongst other indicators.

This week, the board announced the stepping up of the reforms agenda to get Kemsa back on its feet under a consultative model. The envisaged reforms and restructuring will help reconstitute human resource functions to bring about coherence and end-to-end visibility of the State agency. This will ensure we have an efficiency that facilitates the delivery of Kemsa’s organisational core mandate. As the review gets underway and complies with labour laws, the board has issued general notice letters copied to the respective trade unions.

The letters require all non-core staff members to work from home as consultations progress to an amicable settlement. Already, the core operating teams under a caretaker management team have been notified, appointed and mobilised to ensure seamless operations.

The board is optimistic the restructuring and reforms will herald the dawn of a new Kemsa that is structurally aligned to industry-accepted standards and global best practices.

The writer is the chairperson, Kemsa. [email protected] 

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