Sh7b Covid-19 items still stuck at Kemsa over Cabinet delay

The Cabinet, chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta, is yet to approve the disposal of the items. [Courtesy]

Masks and other Covid-19 equipment worth over Sh7 billion are still lying at Kemsa stores as health workers struggle to protect themselves from the virus.

It is understood that this is because the Cabinet, chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta, was yet to approve the disposal of the items that were procured exorbitantly by the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa).

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe had last year ordered Kemsa to sell the items at the prevailing market rates after counties refused to procure with the agency citing inflated prices.

Yesterday, Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache told the National Assembly Public Investments Committee (PIC) that the items were still with Kemsa, more than a year since they were procured for the fight against the pandemic that is entering its fourth wave.

Mochache told the team investigating the alleged scandal at Kemsa that the ministry sought Cabinet approval last year.

“The Ministry of Health sought Cabinet approval in November 2020 to allow Kemsa to sell the Covid-19 commodities at prevailing market prices for immediate distribution to counties and national referral hospitals,” said Mochache.

Health PS Susan Mochache. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

She said that the ministry was guided to liaise with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) that was already probing the alleged loss of taxpayers’ money.

“The ministry and Kemsa engaged the EACC, which provided conditional clearance to Kemsa to proceed and deal with the commodities, including undertaking a stock audit and preparing an inventory of PPEs, while retaining a reasonable amount of samples of each item supplied by various suppliers in consultation with investigators and furnish the commission with a copy of the inventory,” said Mochache.

She said that the troubled agency met all the EACC conditions and subsequently engaged the ministry for further action.

On July 6, 2021, the ministry re-submitted a Cabinet Memo seeking approval to have Kemsa proceed with the disposal.

She said the items are needed by health workers to fight the surge of the virus feared to culminate in a fourth wave this month.

Members of the committee chaired by Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir took issue with the delay to dispose of the items.

Public Investments Committee (PIC) Chair Abdulswamad Nassir. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

“We expected the ministry to give us details of what the Cabinet will be discussing on this matter. You should go back and bring details of what is supposed to be disposed of and how much the government is losing,” said Tinderet MP Julius Melly.

The ministry defended itself from the irregular procurement at the agency, saying it was not involved.

Mochache said the agency kept the ministry in the dark on tenders it processed using own capital. “Any other procurement by Kemsa through its capital funds were under the oversight of the board of directors”.

But the PS was put on the spot, with MPs questioning how the ministry could be unaware yet it had a representative on the board.

Nassir said it was puzzling that the firms in question had supplied similar items to other institutions at far lower rates.