Governors sue ministry over new Aids authority

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Governors have sued the Ministry of Health over the establishment of a National Syendemic Diseases Control Council (NSDCC) to replace the National Aids Control Council (NACC).

At the same time, civil society groups have faulted President Uhuru Kenyatta for restructuring the NACC to NDSCC and assigning it more roles besides its core mandate of ending the HIV epidemic in Kenya by 2030.

The county bosses have filed two separate suits against the Health ministry on grounds that the renaming of NACC by President Kenyatta through an Executive Order is an attempt to take over their functions since health is devolved.

The changes are contained in the Gazette Notice No.130 of August 8, this year. Besides dealing with the HIV epidemic, the new agency has an expanded role of dealing with the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis (TB), malaria, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), leprosy and lung disease among other diseases.

The new agency will also be tackling terminal illnesses that have since been flagged as the leading cause of deaths in Kenya.

Through their lawyer Peter Wanyama, the governors have filed a petition at the High Court challenging the renaming of the Council.

The governors have also filed another petition against the Ministry over the establishment of a Kenya Tissue and Transplant Authority.

The petition has been filed against Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, the Attorney General, and Senate as an interested party.

Kagwe, vide a legal notice 142 of 2022, established the new Authority, which the governors argue in their petition is an attempt by the executive to take over county functions.

Civil society organisations in the health sector claim President Kenyatta overlooked their contributions in the restructuring process.

The organisations are Stop TB Partnership Kenya, Disease Eradication Civil Society Association (Decsa), Pamoja TB, the National Empowerment Network of People living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya (Nephak), AHF Kenya and Talaku Community among others.

"There was no public participation that was carried out by the government before the restructuring was done. The President erred in law to gazette a new organisation without our input," said Emily Mukomunene from Decsa.

She went on: "The new body does not have the capacity to carry out the expanded mandate based on their previous mandate entrusted on them. The Executive Order goes against the spirit of the Health Act of 2017, the HIV Prevention and Control Act of 2006, the Public Finance Management Act of 2012 and the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act.

According to Ms Mukomunene, the new body duplicates the mandate of the critical role played by the Health Ministry in policy making, disease surveillance, research, management of health information system and human resources of health.

"That the government in collaboration with CSOs carries out civic education in all the 47 counties using basic national languages for ease of understanding and quality contribution by the public," she said, adding that renaming the NACC will hinder its mandate to deliver quality health services that will benefit everyone.