Two senior government officials have been linked to a scandal involving a Sh3.7 billion tender meant for the procurement of long-lasting mosquito nets.
According to an insider who spoke to The Standard on condition of anonymity, the tender process did not follow due processes because the two senior officials, including one from the Ministry of Health, wanted to have a hand in it.
"Things happened as they have because individuals wanted to have a share in the tendering process," said the insider, adding, "We advised the senior officials to stop the malpractice, advice which they never adhered to. It is annoying that we have ended up here, yet this is aid money."
The interference by the officials, according to sources, included changing specifications, delaying the tendering process, and inflating the cost.
The tender was launched on January 31, 2023, as an international open tender, with a bid deadline of February 23.
However, the process encountered an unexpected delay when Kemsa extended the bid deadline until March 2023 due to written communication from the Ministry of Health, state department of Public Health, and Professional Standards Office of the Principal Secretary citing inconsistencies in the specifications.
"As per the explanation given, the Acting Director of Procurement of Kemsa approved the extension 'to allow room for (...) modification of (the) tender'," noted the donor audit review.
However, a response on February 24 stated that the specifications should remain as they are, given that they accurately reflect the intention to procure standard mosquito nets only. The tender subsequently closed on March 10, 2023, with no changes to the tender document.
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According to an insider, the delay was meant to fit the interest of the two top government officials.
"Individuals attempted to change specifications in order to fit the bidder of their wish," added the insider.
It has taken seven months for the authority to get its house in order in the tendering process, despite having been expected to start it in November of last year.
"Money for the mosquito nets came in November, but we had an unnecessary delay to have the tendering process completed, an issue which did not bode well with the donor," observed the source.
Further, the source added that despite Global Fund providing leeway to the authority to do a tendering process, it is keen to have the process duly adhered to.
The Global Fund audit review faulted the procurement process, citing several instances where the evaluation was not done in line with the criteria stipulated in the tender document. The review noted that there was a failure to apply the evaluation criteria consistently to all bidders.
The interference has seen the Global Fund move procurement to Wambo.Org. The donor cited reasons such as the need to obtain the long-lasting mosquito nets urgently, which need to arrive in time for the launch of the next mass campaign in November 2023, and the need to complete the mass campaign by the end of the grant, 30 June 2024.
The Global Fund is a key grant to the Kenyan healthcare system and a pillar in the fight against three killer diseases, namely malaria, HIV/AIDS, and Tuberculosis (TB). From 2002 to date, the Global Fund has signed over US$1.8 billion and disbursed over US$1.4 billion in support of fighting the three killer diseases.
The scandal has raised concerns about corruption and malpractice within the government, with people calling for action to be taken against those involved.
Efforts by The Standard to get input from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) were not successful. A press conference that was scheduled by the authority’s chairperson, Mr Daniel Ronoh, was cancelled without explanation.
The scandal has also affected the smooth provision of healthcare across the country, with sources hinting that there is a go-slow at the authority. This development is a cause for concern as it may affect the provision of essential health services to the people of Kenya.