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Covid-19 funds: Kagwe leaves blame squarely on Kemsa doorstep

Reproductive Health - By Japheth Ogila

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe when he appeared before the National Assembly Health Committee over alleged misuse of Covid-19 funds at Kemsa on Wednesday, September 2, 2020. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has distanced himself from the blame on the mess at the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) currently under probe for misappropriation of Covid-19 funds.

Appearing before the National Assembly Health Committee chaired by Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege; Kagwe conceded having instructed Kemsa CEO Jonah Manjari on the use of funds. But the CS said he did not tailor-make procurement processes for Mr Manjari to follow, adding that he acted within his authority as the CS.

“It’s my job to put people under pressure so that they can produce the results we are looking for. It’s not my job to advise anybody against anything they are not supposed to do, and in the event that I told a CEO to do something that is against the law or something they are not comfortable with, he should have said give me that in writing,” he told the committee.

The CS and his Permanent Secretary Susan Mochache have been under the spotlight after Mr Manjari blamed them for pressurising the agency and issuing orders on how to procure the Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).

In specific, Manjari said Mochache instructed him to procure Abbott real-time Sars-COV-2 test kits at a cost of Sh365.9 million on May 11, 2020. He showed the committee another letter dated May 4, 2020, in which the PS had directed him on the procurement and distribution of PCR tests and extraction kits and transport media for Covid-19 at a cost of Sh88.9 million.

But in response, CS Kagwe said if Kemsa boss flouted the procurement rules and regulations, then, he may have done so willingly but not under duress as he claimed.

“When you go wrong you don’t go wrong because the CS told you to go wrong, you go wrong because you are a poor manager and you don’t know how to manage and use the laws on procurement," said Kagwe.

The CS refuted claims that PPEs and testing kits donated by Chinese businessman Jack Ma were sold in Tanzania. Kagwe rubbished the claims saying there was no way they could have been sold in a country declared Covid-19 free.

PS Mochache told the committee that her office works closely with Kagwe’s office and they consult on a regular basis. However, Cherangany MP Joshua Kuttuny faulted her for raising alarm over the suspect expenditure at Kemsa but failing to take decisive action.

Kagwe told the committee that the ministry had damped rapid testing owing to the possibility of generating inaccurate results, and opted for the manual ones. This, he said, had led to a sporadic decrease in the number of testing capacity. But he assured the committee that the capacity would climb after procuring more test kits.

The CS said that Kemsa had the only a single option of selling the PPEs at its warehouses within the prevailing market prices to recoup the money and pay genuine suppliers.

The Parliamentary Health Committee has been investigating claims of funds mismanagement at Kemsa.

Those who attended the grilling were Health CS Mutahi Kagwe, PS Susan Mochache, Kemri CEO Prof Yeri Kombe, Director Liaison, Rose Mudibo, Head of National Laboratory Services Dr John Kiiru, Dr Nduku Kilonzo and Anne Ng'anga' of Covid-19 response project among many others.

Also, the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) on August 18, 2020, pledged a speedy investigation into the Sh7.7 billion tender for the emergency procurement of Covid-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that was to be delivered by July 22, 2020.

"We wish to reassure the public that investigations are already going on to verify these allegations with a view of taking appropriate actions against officers who may be involved in accordance with the law," Philip Kagucia, EACC head of corporate communications, said in a statement.

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