Former Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu told senators that he never saw contract documents for the Sh38 billion medical equipment leased for counties.
Mailu, who headed the Health ministry between 2015 and 2018, claimed he was told the documents were top secret whenever he asked for them.
Yesterday’s revelations before a senate committee investigating the Managed Equipment Service (MES) added to the controversy that has dogged the project.
Mailu told senators that he had not seen the contract document signed by his predecessor James Macharia, who was at Afya House from 2013 to 2015.
“I never even saw the contracts which were signed or executed by my predecessor or Principal Secretary then on MES project,” said Dr Mailu.
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“I want to be on record that several times we went to Health and Budget committees, and the documents were persistently requested for by Parliament. The documents were not availed to the best of my knowledge,” he said.
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“I remember asking for the documents. I also remember Parliament asking for the same documents, but I was told they are top secret and I wondered as a minister what would be secret to me? I couldn’t understand what was in the document that could not be availed to the minister and a committee of Parliament,” said the former CS.
Mailu further cited frustrations by a Principal Secretary who he did not mention by name during the proceedings. Mailu served with PSs Nicholas Muraguri and Julius Korir.
“I would say that the first PS I worked with I found it difficult to perform my duties. I had two PSs, Muraguri and Korir,” he said.
He also said variations on the project were done by the then PS after a request by some counties for more medical equipment.
“The variations which were done in this project were done later and they were being carried out by the PS after a request by the counties. I was not the one carrying out the variations. I recall some governors requesting for additional equipment,” he told senators.
He further said that if the project to connect 98 health facilities across the country was executed well, then the Health Care Information Technology (HCIT) would have been a success.
The HCIT project contract worth Sh4.9 billion had been awarded to Seven Seas Technologies Limited, a local company, on October 2, 2017, before it was cancelled by the Health ministry last year after a dispute arose in the manner of its implementation.
Mailu, now Kenya’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, said if the project proceeded as conceptualised, 98 hospitals that had benefited under the MES scheme would have been connected.
The HCIT - one of Kenya’s largest Information and Communication Technology (ICT) projects, was envisaged to deploy a hospital information system and support the ICT infrastructure to benefit public hospitals nationwide to accelerate the achievement of e-health.
The former CS said the project was first conceptualised under General Electric (GE) East Africa Services Limited under the MES programme mooted in 2015.
According to Mailu, during the execution of the initial contract, the HCIT component of the project was not implemented, but was advertised and awarded during his tenure.
“HCIT contract was first given to General Electric, but upon request to give the cost of implementing the project, it was realised that the project could have cost Sh11.4 billion. The PS went ahead and advised that it could be costly and the ministry needed to float a new tender,” said Mailu.
“I want to say that the contract was awarded towards the end of 2017. I left the ministry in January 2018 when the project was being implemented. This project was supposed to connect various hospitals that had benefited from the MES scheme,” he said.
In a termination letter to Seven Seas Technologies Limited Chief Executive Michael Macharia, Health PS Susan Mochache said the contract contained several clauses which “impose obligations that do not conform to the tender documents”.
Of concern to the Health ministry was a requirement that the National Treasury provide Seven Seas with an original government of Kenya Letter of Support, which would then allow Seven Seas to engage financial institutions for the funding.
At the same time, documents showing that former Attorney General Githu Muigai approved the medical leasing contract emerged.
Githu had on Wednesday told the team chaired by Fatuma Dulo that the Health ministry then under Macharia and Principal Secretary Khadija Kassachoon ignored his advice on the contract.
But documents tabled before the committee indicated that Githu signed and approved the contract.
Earlier, Githu had told the team that Macharia and Kassachon violated the law by executing the contract without his involvement.
A source privy to the contract told The Standard that the issue was not approvals, but the variation of the same by the Health ministry from Sh38 billion to Sh63 billion.
The variation, the source says, was done without knowledge or involvement of the former AG, as required under the law.