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Finally, health kits to be sold after Kagwe gives approval

Health & Science - By Grace Ng'ang'a | December 10th 2020 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

The Government has authorised the release of personal protective equipment that is being held by the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa).

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi yesterday told the Senate Health Committee that the items, which cost Sh5.9 billion, will be sold at prevailing market prices.

“The PPEs will be released at the current local prices irrespective of the losses that would be incurred,” Dr Mwangangi said.

She told the committee that a formal letter from Afya House authorising the release of the Covid-19 items would be ready by Friday.

“We must be aware of the correct process that must be undertaken. Things must be done procedurally,” she said.

Last month, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe directed Kemsa to release the health kits instead of holding them in warehouses.

Acting Kemsa CEO Edward Njuguna had earlier in the week told the committee that the PPEs were available for sale, but at their original price of Sh9,000 for each unit.

A kit contains N95 masks, bodysuits, goggles, waterproof shoe covers, and gloves. The health agency bought the units with the intention of selling them at a markup of five per cent, which translates to Sh9,450.

A similar PPE kit, however, is currently retailing at Sh3,000. During their visit to the warehouse last week, the senators claimed that cartons containing thousands of PPE were gathering dust.

On Tuesday, Pamela Kaburu, a personal secretary to the Director of Procurement, told the Public Investments Committee that she was instructed to backdate tenders that were awarded to influential individuals.

She told the committee that she received calls from suspended CEO Jonah Manjari to sign commitment letters for tenders. “My boss and I were under so much pressure to either sign or backdate commitment letters as per the request of the CEO, without asking any questions.”

Ms Kaburu said that at one time, her boss, suspended Procurement Director Charles Juma, texted her that he wanted to quit his job “as he could not withstand the pressure from his boss.”

“I found him crying in his office only for him to tell me that he was tired of being asked to do things that were unlawful,” she said.

Kaburu said that Manjari signed commitment letters, and not the procurement office as required by law. “He drafted the letters himself. We only came to know about them during delivery.”

Meanwhile, one of the companies that supplied PPEs moved to court to compel the Health ministry to utilise the kits that are lying idle at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Real Time Company Ltd claims that 54,000 respirator masks valued at Sh33.7 million, which they imported on behalf of the Government for frontline medical workers fighting Covid-19, are lying at JKIA when health workers are risking their lives due to lack of protective gear.

Through lawyer Eve Okello, the company wants the Kenya Covid-19 Fund and Equity Group Foundation compelled to take the procured PPEs and pay the importation costs. The company claims it entered into a contract with the two entities on June 18 to supply the respirator masks.

Ms Okello argued that when questions started emerging on how the Government was procuring the PPEs, the Kenya Covid-19 Fund and Equity Group Foundation cancelled the company’s contract in total disregard of the terms and agreement reached.

Company director Lilian Awuor, in her affidavit, swore that she was charged with obtaining money by false pretence from one of the creditors who loaned her Sh2.5 million to import the PPEs and was forced to file another suit to stop her prosecution.

“Another creditor who advanced me Sh1.3 million has moved to several police stations to have me charged but she was advised to seek civil redress. She has resorted to social media with defamatory statements about my being a con artist who was just out to defraud her,” said Ms Awuor.

[Additional reporting by Paul Ogemba]

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