Acting Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) CEO Andrew Mulwa is now at the centre of the mosquito net tender row worth Sh3.7 billion.
The National Assembly Health Committee probing irregularities in the tendering process placed Dr Andrew Mulwa at the centre of the controversy, saying he may have triggered the chain of activities that led to the cancellation of the tender by the donor - Global Fund.
In a heated probe chaired by Endebess MP Robert Pukose, Dr Mulwa, who was serving as Director of Preventive and Promotive Health in the Ministry of Health, was at pains to explain to the committee the role he played in the tendering process.
Dr Mulwa was also put in the spotlight for authorising an official in the Ministry of Health to write a memo that led to changing the specifications of mosquito nets.
In his defence, Dr Mulwa admitted that his decision was based on advice from the said person (whom he did not name during the probe). He said the individual raised the alarm that the contract specifications given by Kemsa had gaps that needed to be sorted out.
He told the committee that he directed the individual to write a memo to him concerning the missing specifications.
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“During a workshop in Naivasha, the head of the malaria programme came to me and told me the tender as advertised has a problem and is missing PBO. I told him, ‘If you think it has a problem, do put it in writing’,” Dr Mulwa told the committee amid fierce exchanges.
“It (memo) did not pass through my office, the PS (Josephine Mburu) passed it,” Dr Mulwa said, adding that the individual side-stepped him and handed over the memo to the sacked PS Public Health Josephine Mburu.
After receiving the memo, Ms Mburu in turn wrote to the suspended Kemsa CEO Terry Ramadhani to have specifications changed based on the advice of the individual.
Dr Mulwa admitted that PBO which was included in the tender was not part of the specifications required by the donor - Global Fund.
Procurement of the mosquito nets, according to Dr Mulwa, was done by the malaria programme under the Ministry of Health as part of the policy, which highlighted specifications as per the 2016 document.
Specification by Kemsa, he said, was rectangular in shape, with white, green and blue in colour.
Further, the Global Fund settled on polythene nets as part of the specification. According to Mulwa, apart from beyond Global Fund, there are other partners who support the malaria programme, and the inclusion of PBO could allow them to easily procure the nets.
“This generic was included in 2016 to address those issues so that any partner who is purchasing those nets for mass distribution can use either of the specifications,” said Dr Mulwa.
Furious committee members accused Mulwa of causing the country to lose Sh3.7 billion to an international supplier - Wambo.Org, because of the specifications.
The committee further questioned the criteria used to sack and suspend a section of employees in connection with the scandal, yet there are people linked to the bungling of the tender.
Seme Member of Parliament Dr James Nyikal demanded an explanation on what caused Mulwa to change the specifications.
“We live in a country where people doing their jobs are affected by interests. Nobody wants to die and cry for Kenyans,” said Dr Nyikal.
Dr Mulwa defended himself saying he never changed any specifications, and that what he gave to the National Treasury in October 2022 is what was submitted to the donor.
“They (Global Fund) advised Kemsa to use previous documents which were word for word. The very specifications I gave from my office to the PS in October were the same as that done in 2016,” he said.
He further said PBO changed from the use of pyrethroid was done in 2016, when he was serving as the health executive in Makueni County, and that he was not at the Ministry.
“How the policy document was developed and done, I was not in the ministry,” he added.
Nevertheless, Dr Mulwa said while serving at the ministry, he did not have the specification visibility between the National Treasury, Global Fund and Kemsa.
He told the committee that he only interacted with the matter when the person in charge of the malaria programme informed him about problems that had emerged during the advertising of the tender in newspapers were missing PBO.
“Before I received communication from the head of the malaria programme, I saw the issue being acted upon (the missing specifications), by the time I realised there was a change, I realised it later after Kemsa had requested for extension of the tender,” Dr Mulwa defended himself.
The acting Kemsa CEO further said that he never signed any letter requesting a change of specifications in the tender process.
“The officer (head of malaria) came to me informing me there was a problem. If it would have come to me, I would…,” Dr Mulwa said amid interruption by the charged committee.
During the probe, it also emerged from the vice chair of the committee Patrick Munene that Mulwa allegedly threatened an official at the Ministry of Health to doctor documents which were to be tabled before the committee yesterday in his favour.
But Mulwa rubbished the claims saying he no longer works at the Ministry of Health, at no point has he ever threatened any staff, and that documents presented before the health committee were not doctored.
Also, appearing before the probe Health CS Susan Nakhumicha was tasked to explain to Kenyans the amount of money lost due to the cancellation of the tender to a local manufacturer.
Nakhumicha dismissed reports that the government lost no money in the cancellation of the tender.
The CS explained to the committee that the country lost money through tender adverts put forth by Kemsa in local newspapers, time invested by the tender evaluation committee, and two per cent in the procurement of the 10.2 million total number of mosquito nets.