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Tum grilling on Sh3.7b mosquito net tender stopped over 'fire drill'

Health & Science
 Sport Principal Secretarty Peter Tum during the launch of Kenya Innovation Week 2023 Commonwealth Edition at Sarova PanAfric Hotel, Nairobi on June 28, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The grilling of former Health ministry PS Peter Tum over irregularities in the procurement of mosquito nets worth Sh3.7 billion was on Thursday postponed over unclear circumstances.

Tum had been scheduled to appear before the Senate Health Committee chaired by Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago. 

But it remained unclear why the committee postponed the session, despite him having reported at the KICC early enough for questioning.

An official told journalists that a fire drill at the KICC messed up the meeting timings.

“The meeting has been postponed. We shall advise on the new dates,” said the official. “Due to unavoidable circumstances, this meeting has been postponed.” The fire drill was reported at KICC at around 10.10am. It took about an hour before normal operations resumed.

As the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) grill was postponed indefinitely, other parliamentary committee sessions were ongoing after KICC security officers confirmed everything was on schedule.

Before being moved to his current department a month ago, Tum was the PS at the department of Medical Services.

He was expected to deliberate on the alleged irregularities in the procurement of long-lasting insecticidal nets at Kemsa, which forced its cancellation by the Global Fund in May this year, in favour of Wambo.Org.

Irregularities of the 1.2 million mosquito nets tender occurred at a time when Tum was mandated to oversee operations at Kemsa, as outlined in a Presidential Order paper.

Tum was widely mentioned by the sacked Public Health PS Josephine Mburu. Appearing before the committee two weeks ago, Mburu pleaded innocent, saying Kemsa was under Tum’s docket, and that she was not sure of the reason why she was fired by President William Ruto. 

“Kemsa ... was not under my jurisdiction. I had no control over it,” the hard-pressed Mburu told the committee. Tum was the Medical Services PS but was moved to the Sports docket. [Mercy Kahenda]

Also appearing before the committee was suspended Kemsa CEO Terry Ramadhani, who said she received instructions from Health CS Susan Nakhumicha directing her not to communicate directly to the sacked PS, despite the malaria programme being under the Public Health docket.

Instead, she said the CS directed her to communicate with PS Tum who was serving at the Medical Services before being moved to the Ministry of Sports. The Executive order shows that Medical Services fall under Tum’s mandate.

Ramadhani told the committee that the lack of clarity on whom she was to clarify the tendering issue brought a back-and-forth confrontation between herself, PS Tum and Mburu.

“It appeared like communicating with one party would anger the other. I was told by the CS that any communication should be with Tum, although malaria and TB budgets were under Mburu,” the suspended Kemsa boss told the Mandago-lead committee. 

Wrangling and blame game among the top health officials continues to play, with nobody ready to take responsibility, despite Global Fund citing various challenges that led to the cancellation of the tender to a local manufacturer in favour of an international supplier.

Among issues that resulted in the cancellation include change of specifications, pagination and costing. Public Procurement Regulatory Authority director general Patrick Kingunyo further said none of the bidders who applied for the tender met the requirements.

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