The Kemsa mess: Staff earned millions at home as others did their jobs

KEMSA CEO Terry Ramadhan addresses press conference at the Embakasi facility during a media tour on Tuesday, April, 4, 2023. [Samson Wire. Standard]

For 19 months now, scandal-ridden Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) has paid hundreds of millions to about 350 employees who were locked out of their offices.

Insider information obtained by The Standard and qualified by a recent letter to suspended CEO Terry Ramadhani say the authority is sagging under the weight of bloated staff, made worse by the November 2021 purge. 

At the time they were locked out of the offices, the employees were told they would be working away from home. Their roles were, however, taken up by temporary staff and others seconded from other government agencies. Others were employed on short-term contracts and continued drawing salaries long after expiry of their contracts.

The employees were sent home in February last year in what was referred to as reforms following controversy on Sh7.8 billion meant for Covid-19.

Sources placed the monthly bill for the “idle” staff at Sh45 million, translating to Sh855 million for the period they have been paid while at home.

On April 14, the Ministry of Health wrote to Ramadhani, flagging human resources practices that have hampered efficiency.

“Kemsa’s staff establishment as per the approved instruments stands at 378 against an in-post of 910 employees. Before the review of the HR instruments, the authority had an approved staff establishment of 348,” said Principal Secretary for Medical Services Peter Tum.

Tum was yesterday moved to the Sports Department.

This means post the 2021 period, the staff jumped from 378 to 910 comprising seconded staff, contract employees and staff “working from home” who were locked out of their offices through an executive order. The employees “working from home” took Kemsa to court.

Tum spoke of “bloated workforce” who had sprang out of “unchecked recruitment of staff on contracts.” He also spoke of Kemsa officers who were engaged for specific projects but “were retained and continued to draw salaries even after the project had expired.”

“Several Kemsa officers are working from home for over a year. There is a caretaker team drawn from wider public service performing duties of the officers who are working from home. Kemsa also recruited officers on short-term contracts to perform duties of the officers working from home,” Tum wrote.

The PS was responding Ramadhani’s letter seeking concurrence of the ministry to implement a voluntary early retirement for the hundreds of employees “working from home.”

“Recall all the officers who are working from home. Fast tract the exit of employees of the authority serving on contract in accordance with existing legal framework. This will address the problem of bloated workforce,” he directed.

He also directed her to release the caretaker team and those on secondment to their respective employees.

“Kemsa should negotiate with the officers who are in court for a possible out of court settlement. Undertake comprehensive business re-engineering to address some of the systemic challenges facing the authority,” he urged.

On Monday, Ramadhani was suspended alongside eight other officers over a botched Global Fund tender. The board chaired by Daniel Rono was dissolved and replaced with another led by for PS Irungu Nyakera.

In October, employees who were sent home wrote to President William Ruto, complaining they were not being assigned roles.

“All top managers at Kemsa were sent home in February 2022 and have ostensibly been working from home to date (yet there is no work assignment given to these officers),” read the letter.

By Willis Oketch 12 mins ago
KRA, KPA to auction overstayed imported goods at Mombasa port
Worker position in the Kenya-US trade agreement needs a rethink
Lukewarm start to coffee reforms drive puts farmers on edge
KPA denies ports privatisation claims as CFSs lay their demands