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Probe into Kemsa scandal fails to take off

 The KEMSA scandal probe was called off after some agencies failed to turn up for the hearing.  [Samson Wire, Standard]

A probe into the circumstances under which Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) lost billions of shillings at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic was called off on Tuesday after some agencies failed to turn up for the hearing before a parliamentary committee.

This happened after the National Assembly Committee on Implementation chaired by Budalangi MP Raphael Wanjala adjourned the sitting on Tuesday after top Government officials failed to show up at the scheduled meeting.

Agencies that appeared before the committee included the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission(EACC), Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Kemsa officials and the State Department for Medical Services Principal Secretary.

Although Kemsa acting CEO was present, the PS did not appear whereas EACC and KRA sent representatives, a development which was not well received by members who opted not to proceed with the sittings.

EACC was represented by the Deputy CEO while KRA was represented by the commissioner of legal service

"This is a very serious issue and some people cannot be dancing on the graves of the dead people because they have money that they have stolen from Kenya. We must settle this matter," said Wanjala.

The committee members said the officials must be summoned or pay a huge fine

"Despite the fact that Kenyans lost billions of shillings through this sandal this meeting is not properly constituted. This matter will not die under our watch. We must unearth this scandal. Let’s not allow ourselves to engage in a public relations matter," said Kipkelion West MP Hillary Kosgey

Nandi Woman Representative Cynthia Muge said: "This is one tactic of playing down seriousness. Let them know that this is a powerful committee and we are the ones to decide whether you stay or go."

The officials were expected to answer questions on the implementation of the recommendations of the Public Investment Committee (PIC) special audit report on utilisation of Covid-19 funds by Kemsa.

The committee wanted to know whether EACC investigated the Kemsa board on the role it played during the procurement of the Covid-19 supplies with a view of preferring charges against it either as a board or individually for abdicating their responsibilities under Section 15(1) of the State Corporations Act.

The Act calls upon the board to be responsible for the proper management of the affairs of a state corporation and accountable for the moneys, the financial business and the management of a state corporation.

EACC was also expected to shed light on whether it investigated the alleged interference of Senator Kembi Gitura and Joel Gesuka Onsare, the then Kemsa Board members, on the award of Commitment letters to Wallabis Ventres Limited and Villa Surgical Supplies and Equipment Limited respectively with a view to preferring charges against them for violating the law.

PIC chair at the time Abdulswamad Sharif who is now Mombasa governor had recommended investigation by EACC with a view of preferring charges against the suspended Kemsa CEO Jonah Manjari, for signing commitment letters, an instrument not recognized in law, procuring Covid-19 pandemic supplies without a procurement plan, market survey and budgets and failure to update the Kemsa board regularly and formally on the preparedness of the management to procure the Covid-19 supplies among others

PIC had also recommended that EACC investigate with a view of preferring charges against the director of procurement Charles Juma for not advising the CEO on the necessity to put in place procedures of conducting retrospective direct procurement and drafting letters while aware that there was no procurement plan market survey and budgets among others.

KRA was expected to investigate whether all the suppliers that supplied KEMSA with COVID-19-related items had declared and paid taxes. KRA was to commence appropriate legal actions against any entities that had not declared and paid their taxes.

Kemsa hit the headlines after it emerged that irregularities by some senior officials saw the authority inflate its expenditure by up to Sh7.8 billion.

In 2020, the then Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji returned the inquiry files back to EACC after identifying gaps in the submissions.

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