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More confusion as top officials at Health Ministry clash over their roles

 Suspended Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kemsa Terry Ramadhani. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

An ongoing probe of top health officials has revealed wrangling in the discharge of duties, an issue that seems to affect the smooth flow of services at the Ministry of Health.

It was laid bare that two departments under the ministry, namely Public Health and Medical Services are flexing muscles.

The sacked PS Public Health Josephine Mburu told the health committee that the running of Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) is under Medical Services and not under her mandate.

However, the PS at the Department of Medical Services then (Peter Tuma) was not copied in a letter written by Ms Mburu to the suspended Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kemsa Terry Ramadhani.

"Kemsa is not under Josephine. It was not under me. It was not public health. It was under Medical Services, PS Tum. And it was not under my regulation. I had no control over it. My work ended when I wrote a letter," Ms Mburu told the authority.

In the letter dated February 21, which The Standard has a copy of, Mburu requested a change in specifications.

Mburu raised concerns over inconsistency in the specifications of long-lasting insecticide treatment nets for the mass campaign for 2023/24.

"The Ministry of Health, through the Division of National Malaria Programme (DNMP), has noted that the advertisement is missing some specifications when compared with the original specifications that were shared by MoH - DNMP," reads a section of a letter addressed to Ms Ramadhani.

In response to Mburu's letter, the suspended CEO wrote directly to Global Fund requesting for an extension of the tender process to allow changes in the specifications, as indicated by the former PS (Mburu).

On specifications, Ramadhani said that the donor wanted pyrethroid, and not PBO as per the ministry's request.

Global Fund wrote to Kemsa through The National Treasury asking them to proceed and ensure the specifications as per the requirement of the donor were met.

 Ex-PS, Public Health, Josephine Mburu. [File, Standard]

The suspended CEO said the extension of time was meant to help correct the specifications as per the need of the donor.

But the donor maintained the errors were not corrected, leading to the cancellation of the tender which was awarded to wambo.org.

On Tuesday the health committee probing the Kemsa scandal put the PS to task to explain why she maintained she did not have direct involvement in the tendering process, having found the tendering process in progress, yet in her submissions to the committee, she indicated that she presented two officials to the tender evaluation committee that had already been formed.

According to Narok Senator Ledama Olekina, who is also a member of the committee, the fact that the PS seconded two names to the committee and wrote a letter to correct specifications, was a direct indication of her involvement in the tendering process.

In her quick defence, Ms Mburu maintained that the advice she gave to Kemsa in her letter on the omission of specifications was not to stop the tendering process but to correct the errors.

Further, she said the two officials seconded to the evaluation committee were to help her understand the tendering process of the mosquito nets.

In the letter, she told the committee that she had been informed by an official from the ministry about the omission in specifications.

Mburu however explained herself saying the malaria program was under her docket, and that Kemsa is the sole supplier of medical commodities.

"I was left to manage malaria and TB, which were under public health," she said.

During the probe, Ms Ramadhani also revealed that she was confused about who she was to communicate with in regard to the tendering process.

She told the committee that Health CS Susan Nakhumicha warned her against direct communication with Mburu, and instead was to communicate directly to Tum.

  Health CS Susan Nakhumicha. [File, Standard]

But Ms Ramahdani did not table a copy of the letter in regard to the said communication with Ms Nakhumicha.

Contrary to the dispute between the Medical Services and Public Health departments, the mandate of each of the officials is clear in the Executive Order Paper Number 1 of 2023.

The Department for Public Health and Professional Standards deals with preventive and promotive health services, policy on human resources development for health care workers, health education management, food quality hygiene and nutrition, reproductive health policy, quarantine administration, and radiation policy.

Other roles are immunisation policy and management, control and protection HIV/AIDS management.

Apart from malaria and TB, Mburu was also mandated to handle other programmes under the Department of Public Health.

On the other hand, Tum currently served as Sports PS and was mandated with medical services policy, curative health services, health policy and management, pharmacy and medicines control, national health referral services, cancer management policy and medical research.

Tum oversees institutions, as per the executive order.

There are still questions on the role of the Kemsa chair in the tendering process.

The sacked Kemsa chair Daniel Rono maintained that he was new to the tendering process as the board had no mandate to oversee the process and never sat as a board to discuss the mosquito nets tender.

He further said he was barely new when Global Fund cancelled the Sh3.7 billion tender.

But contrary to what he said, Mr Rono appeared in one of the media houses last month together with Ramadhani defending the tender evaluation committee as comprising professionals who did their job above board.

"The Global Fund indicated to us that we will get the route of manufacturers because of timelines," Mr Rono said.

A representative from the Global Fund and Director General of Public Procurement Authority Patrick Kanyugo will appear before the health committee today (Thursday), to shed more light on what lead to the cancellation of the tender.

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