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Kemsa to lose Sh2.3b as CS orders it to sell PPE cheaply

Health & Science

 

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe when he appeared before the National Assembly health committee at the Mini chambers in Nairobi on November 11, 2020. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe has directed the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) to dispose of its dead stock of Personal Protective Equipment worth Sh6.2 billion at the current market price.

The directive means taxpayers will lose about Sh2.3 billion as the Personal Protective Equipment, which include masks, will be sold at significantly lower prices compared to the amount the agency spent to procure them.

Kemsa procured some of the items immediately after the first case was recorded in the country when global prices for equipment meant to curb the spread of coronavirus were relatively high.

For instance, Kemsa's price for N-95 surgical mask was Sh700 then. The price has since gone down to Sh150.

Yesterday, Kagwe also told the Senate and National Assembly's health committees that he has since instructed the agency to proceed and sell the equipment to counties.

The CS also revealed that some officials fear that they will be prosecuted if they sell the stock at throw-away prices.

The fears by the officers have been compounded by the fact that the stock is a subject of investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission over alleged irregularities in procurement.

“Many officers fear that if they sell the PPEs at a lower price, there would be questions during audit,” Kagwe told National Assembly's Health Committee.

He told the team chaired by Murang'a Woman Representative Sabina Chege that there was no option around the dead stock other than selling them.

“They have to sell the stock at the current market rates because they can’t fetch the price they bought them at. I will be writing to Kemsa, allowing them to proceed in supplying the counties with PPEs,” Kagwe said.

The CS had earlier told the Senate Health Committee that his ministry has since informed the county governments to start getting their supplies from Kemsa.

“We have asked the counties to get the PPE and masks that they may require directly from Kemsa. This will then be deducted against their accounts,” the CS said.

Some of the senators were of the opinion that some of the PPE be returned to suppliers to save the taxpayers billions of shillings set to be lost by selling them cheaply.

Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina argued that since some of the suppliers are yet to be paid, they should take back their supplies.

Some of the suppliers become subject of investigations by both houses of Parliament over claims of procurement irregularities.

Counties had stopped procuring the equipment from the agency citing relatively high prices compared to other suppliers of the Covid-19-related items.

Kemsa has been in a Catch-22 situation, unable to dispose of the items nor procure new ones, despite the fact that counties need to be equipped to handle the second wave of coronavirus.

The Council of Governors chair Wycliffe Oparanya had said counties have no money to buy the PPE.

Major problem

Oparanya, who is also the Kakamega governor, said no county is currently able to deal with the increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. “As we speak, the PPE are our major problem. We do not have them. We appeal to the national government to give us the money to buy PPE or supply them to us because our medical staff are in danger,” Oparanya had told The Standard.

At the same time, the CS expressed his reservations about the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer, an American multinational pharmaceutical corporation.

It has been reported that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 90 per cent effective against the coronavirus.

Kagwe said the effectiveness of the vaccine will only be ascertained in the next six months even as he cited trials being done in the country.

"I've got my many doubts. Here is a case where we are talking about a vaccine that stops someone from getting the virus," Kagwe said.

He added: "It would be interesting to know how they knew that I was going to get the virus so they give me the vaccine.”

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