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KEMSA board questioned for the second time after EACC raids offices

By Cyrus Ombati and Anyango Otieno | September 10th 2020 at 15:09:07 GMT +0300

KEMSA board members have been grilled twice by the EACC over Covid-19 medical supplies procurement tender. [File, Standrd]

The board of Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA) was questioned for the second day running on Wednesday hours after anti-graft agency detectives had raided their offices in Nairobi.
The detectives from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) Wednesday raided the offices on Commercial Street, Nairobi in search of more information before they later ordered all board members including the acting Chief Executive Officer Edward Njuguna to be present for further questioning.
There were claims crucial data had been deleted from the computers at the agency hence need for further questioning of the staff. Those grilled were released late in the evening on Wednesday.
Officials said the EACC personnel were armed with search warrants when they arrived as the staff were reporting for work on Wednesday.
They declared the offices a crime scene as they sealed the gates and locked employees inside the premises.
Visitors from outside were also not allowed into the premises as the detectives who arrived in two vans went about their business. They said they were looking for more information in the ongoing probe into claims of corruption in the supply of COVID-19 pandemic medical supplies.
The officials spent hours in the premises before leaving with valuables.
There are claims of corruption in the supplies and EACC is investigating the same.
Staff at the agency said the detectives went to the Chief Executive Officer’s and procurement offices and carted away computers and documents.
The CEO Johnah Manjari, Charles Juma (head of procurement) and Eliud Mureithi (commercial director) were suspended to allow EACC complete investigations into the matter.
 Njuguna is the acting CEO while Edward Buluma is the operations director procurement and the acting commercial director is George Walukame.
KEMSA spokesperson Elizabeth Mwai said the detectives were armed with a search warrant and they took possession some documents electronic data and computers that will assist in their ongoing probe.
 “KEMSA has stated before that it shall continue to cooperate with EACC and other investigating agencies to resolve this matter in the shortest time possible,” she said.
 
The commission officials have in the past raided the offices for documents. This was at the start of the probe into the claims.
The raid came a day after the EACC grilled top officials from KEMSA over their handling of procurement of drugs and other goods meant to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kembi Gitura-led KEMSA board was first Tuesday grilled for over seven hours on the contentious award of multi-billion tenders. They were again grilled on Wednesday.
Preliminary investigations say KEMSA procured items worth Sh7.8 billion against the agreed budget of Sh750M.
During the grilling, the board chairman told the EACC Manjari ignored the board’s advice and wrote directly to the Treasury, seeking additional funding.
 EACC has at least a week to make a preliminary report on the saga. Parliament is conducting a parallel probe into the issue while officials from the office of the Auditor-General had camped Kemsa office for an audit last week before leaving.
Whereas the agency got a green light to procure items worth about Sh750 million, officials proceeded to procure items of about Sh7.8 billion.
Following the development, Kemsa is now stuck with Sh6.2 billion worth of goods it is seeking MPs help to dispose of. 
Apart from the Covid-19 pandemic issues, the commission is also investigating other procurement matters at the agency.
Officials said the board members were Tuesday asked to explain why they did not take charge of procurement process of drugs and other goods that were meant to cushion the spread of the pandemic.
This was after it emerged the board is exonerating itself from any wrongdoing in the graft claims surrounding COVID-19 supplies procurement and instead indicted Manjari of bypassing its input in the entire exercise.
Gitura had also told the National Assembly’s Health Committee that Manjari ignored the board’s advice on budgetary expenditure and went ahead to write directly to the National Treasury seeking additional funds.
He told the same information to the EACC officials saying the board did not authorize the budget passing from Sh4.6 billion to Sh7.1 billion.
Suspended Director of Procurement Charles Juma told the investigators he had on numerous occasions issued advisories to Manjari not to exceed the Sh4.6 billion budget that the agency was working with at the time.
He pointed out that despite his advisories, Manjari went on to sign commitment letters to various suppliers, illegally, without involving his input.
Manjari had told both the parliamentary committee and EACC the letters awarding tenders were issued in good faith arguing that the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic situation in the country had presented a unique challenge to the agency.
EACC Chief Executive Officer Twalib Mbarak said the probe is ongoing and they will escalate it to other levels.
Last week, the commission grilled former Gatanga MP David Murathe and former Karachuonyo MP James Rege. They are among dozens of suppliers of goods and services in the targeted period that have been questioned.
Rege said he was questioned over financial security he offered to a company that supplied the supplies to KEMSA.
Murathe was grilled for hours after it emerged that he was a signatory to a bank account operated by Kilig Limited.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has said that he was the whistleblower in the saga.
Speaking to KTN News, the CS said he was responsible for calling DCI detectives to commence investigations in the Ministry.
“I am the one who spoke to them to come here and start the investigations in the Ministry of Health, in our parastatals,” said Kagwe.?
 


KEMSA EACC Covid-19 procurement
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