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How Kemri staff formed NGO to get donor cash

By Daniel Psirmoi | February 10th 2016

Millions of shillings might have been lost at the top medical research agency in a fraudulent scheme by some staff.

The National Assembly's Health Committee discovered donor funding to the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) might have been misappropriated.

The committee grilled top officers from Kemri led by acting Director Gerald Mkoji over the relationship of an NGO - where money was diverted by some staff - and the agency.

Dr Mkoji (pictured) yesterday told the Rachel Nyamai-led parliamentary team that the Research Care and Training Programme and Family Aids Care (RCTP Faces) NGO was formed by staff members of Kemri in 2011.

He divulged that his deputy Elizabeth Bukusi and senior a staff member, Patrick Oyaro, were directors of the organisation registered within Kemri, prompting the MPs to ask him if this was not a conflict of interest.

During the committee sitting, it emerged that officials of RCTP Faces had signed a memorandum of understanding with the research institute last year for a transfer of assets including buildings and vehicles.

Earlier, Prof Bukusi and Mr Oyaro, a former director of the RCTP Faces programme at Kemri before it morphed into an NGO, had arrived at the sitting. The duo were asked to step out as they were under investigation.

"You have a body formed under Kemri and headed by your deputy and members of staff which receives money from donors, don't you see that conflict of interest may come up?" asked Robert Pukose, who is the team's vice chairperson.

"The international donor community prefers to channel funds through local NGOs," said Mkoji, who rose to the helm at Kemri last year following the suspension of the former boss Solomon Mpoke.

Committee member James Murgor (Keiyo North) asked him whether he knew the amount of money channelled to the NGO.

"When it was registered one of the eight directors was Bukusi and others. When she was appointed the deputy director in 2011 she resigned and a set of new directors was appointed including some Kemri employees," he said.

The team told Mr Mpoke to answer the questions which Mkoji was unable to. "80 per cent of Kemri's budget comes from external donors. I do not have a figure of the amount donors have given to Kemri to date but the institute's budget is about Sh1 billion," said Mpoke.

Ms Nyamai instructed Kemri's legal officer to furnish her team with a list of the NGO's directors. "As we handle this matter, the Kemri board should institute disciplinary action against the officials involved, it is definitely a fraud," she said.

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