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Uhuru issues ultimatum over Kemsa graft claims


President Uhuru Kenyatta makes his eleventh address to the nation on the coronavirus containment measures from State House, Nairobi yesterday. [PSCU, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta fired a warning shot to Afya House, issuing a 21-day ultimatum for Kenya Medical Supplies Authority investigations, and betraying his intention to make far-reaching changes.

In the double blow that came in a quick succession, Principal Secretary Susane Mochache had lost a big chunk of her office when the changes were revoked.

Mochache is the main accounting officer at the expansive docket, and below her sits two Chief Administrative Secretaries Rashid Aman and Dr Mercy Mwangangi.

In the changes that were retracted, her office had been split up into two — public health and medical services.

Mochache had been slated to move to medical services while Dr Francis Owino was to take up public health. Peter Kinuthia Thuku was to be the Principal Administrative Secretary in the ministry.

“We would like to retract an earlier communication on the management changes at the Ministry of Health... fresh communication on the subject matter will be issued in due course,” State House Spokesperson, Kanze Dena-Mararo said in a terse statement.

Earlier, Kenyatta had extolled his zero-tolerance resolve against corruption, asking investigative agencies to fast-track investigations into the graft allegations against Kemsa.

“Given the compelling public interest on the matter, the relevant agencies should expedite the ongoing investigations and conclude the same within 21 days from the date hereof,” he said.

He said all persons found culpable should be brought to book, “notwithstanding the public office they hold, or their political or social status.”

Earlier in the day, a man moved to court seeking to stop Kemsa from transacting business until completion of investigations into the loss of billions of shillings meant to help curb spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kennedy Otieno, in his petition filed at the High Court, claims that the Kemsa board of directors are suspects in the loss of a portion of the Sh223 billion set aside to fight the coronavirus pandemic and that they will interfere with evidence if they remain in office.

Secret meetings

“Continued operation of the board members will lead to interference of evidence and it is only fair that the court stops them from transacting any business on behalf of Kemsa so that the truth can be known if the Covid-19 funds were misappropriated,” Otieno said.

Otieno claimed that he has evidence the Kemsa board members are planning secret meetings to reorganise the human resource department and victimise staff who raised the alarm over the loss of Covid-19 funds and destroy evidence that incriminate suspected looters.

He argued that the management of Kemsa has committed various illegalities like inflating the prices of medical equipment, paying for items without approval from the Ministry of Health and diverting to private warehouses materials donated by international community.

Flatten the curve

Through lawyer Bryan Khaemba, Otieno submitted that it is unfortunate that the Covid-19 pandemic has presented the country with challenges but as the government attempts to flatten the curve to save lives, some crooked people have taken advantage to steal funds meant to fight the disease.

Khaemba said that Kenya has received donor funds amounting to Sh223 billion which was channelled through Kemsa to procure drugs and medical equipment but which cannot be fully accounted for.

“We have reports that Kemsa embarked on unlawful spending spree of the donor funds by buying personal protective equipment at inflated prices almost double the market price and diverting large consignment of donated masks and ventilators to private companies,” Khaemba said.

He argued that due to the alleged mismanagement of Covid-19 funds, several international organisations including the Universal Healthcare Funds, the Global Fund and USAid have threatened to withdraw support for HIV and Aids, tuberculosis and malaria programmes.

According to Khaemba, the planned meeting by Kemsa board of directors is meant to sanitise the misappropriation of funds and punish whistle blowers within the agency in order to scuttle investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

Justice James Makau certified the suit as urgent and directed Kemsa, the Ministry of Health and the Attorney General to file their responses within four days and scheduled the hearing for September 8.

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