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Kingi defends county in probe into graft claims in Covid-19 complex claims malice

Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi commissioned a Sh500 million new hospital with 150 Covid-19 specialised beds to serve the Coast region.

Kilifi County Governor Amason Kingi has come out to defend his administration over claims of graft in the construction of a hospital complex, saying procurement was above board.

Mr Kingi explained that when the county government came into being after the 2013 elections, the health sector was on its knees and lacked critical facilities such as High Dependancy Unit and Intensive Care Unit. 

“To address these challenges, the county government embarked on an ambitious project that would see critical health services offered in the county. This is when the idea of constructing a medical complex at the Kilifi Sub-county Hospital was born,” he said.

He explained that due to budgetary competing needs, the project was executed in two phases. The county government advertised the tender for the first phase in local dailies in November 2016, which attracted four bidders.

The successful bidder was awarded the tender and none of the losing bidders filed complaints, Kingi said.

In November 2019, he explained, the county government advertised a tender for the second phase on its official website and also on the public procurement information portal as per the law and only one bidder responded and after being subjected to the procurement procedures, the bidder was successful and was awarded.

“When the Covid-19 pandemic hit our country, Kilifi wasn’t spared. In an effort to effectively prepare itself to combat this disease, the county government converted part of the first phase of the medical complex into a temporary Covid-19 medical complex,” the governor explained.

Demanded files

He narrated that immediately after the launch of the facility, four Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) officers delivered a letter to the county government offices saying they were investigating allegations of irregular procurement on the complex and demanded files related to the same. 

Kingi said EACC officers from Kilifi and Mombasa counties accompanied by the media in what seemed to be a well-choreographed operation visited the offices and roughed up some county government officials and arrested them.

The governor wondered why EACC started investigations immediately after the launch of the hospital yet the project had been ongoing since 2017.

He said the files for the first and second phases of the Kilifi County Medical Complex were available for scrutiny by any investigative agency, including the public as long as the legal procedure for availing information and documents was observed. 

The governor explained that in efforts to boost effective preparedness to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, the county government procured essential and critical items including ICU beds. Before any procuring entity agrees to pay for any item, the price of such item must be within the prevailing market price as provided for under section 103(2)(e) of the PPAD Act.

“Unfortunately, even before the county government has paid a single cent for the ICU beds, malicious reports have already emerged that we have bought the ICU beds for Sh1.6 million each. Where did these people get these fabricated figures? Who wants to demonise the Kilifi County government and discredit the Kilifi County Medical Complex,” he posed.

“It is a cardinal rule in the county that value of the tax payers money must always be realised with no compromise whatsoever. Any county officer breaching this rule will have himself to blame,” Kingi added.

EACC is investigating the procurement of tenders for the construction and equipping of Sh500 million Kilifi Covid-19 medical complex.

The recently commissioned state-of-the-art facility is at the centre of the probe after it emerged that the cost of the construction, which commenced in 2016, was varied by over 25 per cent in violation of the procurement law.

The commission is also investigating allegations that a politician was awarded the tender to supply ICU beds, and exaggerated the cost to Sh1.6 million each.

Initial cost

Officials say the initial cost of the building was estimated at Sh300 million but the figure signed in the contract in 2017 was Sh400 million. This is the cost of phase one under probe as the county government embarks on phase two of the project estimated to cost Sh385 million.

EACC CEO Twalib Mbarak said they are investigating the hospital and the equipment supplied with an open mind to establish whether it is value for money.

“This is both for the construction of the building and its equipping. Even though it was done to mitigate the effects of coronavirus, we want to establish if it is value for money,” said Mbarak.

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