Group wants Sh63b medical equipment leasing deal audited

Technicians at AIC Kijabe Hospital's Radiology department scan a patient using the 16-slice Siemens Somaton CT-scanner. [File, Standard]

A public policy think tank has called for a comprehensive audit of the Sh63 billion controversial medical equipment-leasing tender before its renewal.

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) said on Tuesday at a public forum to scrutinise the project in Nairobi while there are a few success stories, implementation of the Managed Equipment Services (MES) is still shrouded in mystery.

Kenya signed contracts with five private companies in 2015 to lease specialised equipment like CT scanners to the 47 county governments. It was to run for seven years. Under the 2010 Constitution that ushered in devolution, counties are charged with managing most health services.

The firms picked under the deal included China's Shenzhen Mindray, India's Esteem Industries, General Electric and Philips.

But IEA now says the arrangement has not gone according to plan, for example, how the funding of the project oscillated from Sh38 billion to Sh45.9 billion and then Sh63 billion.

The institute said while the increase in funding could be explained by additional facilities that ended up benefiting from the project, it should have been reconfigured to avoid the mistakes that occurred in its first phase of implementation.

The project's purpose was to equip hospitals at the county level with the necessary infrastructure, among them dialysis machines, theatre and other diagnostic equipment.

IEA Programmes Coordinator John Mutua said comprehensive consultations during the inception of the project would have helped avoid some of the gaps witnessed later.

"In Laikipia, for example, there was duplication. They received equipment they already had," said Mutua.

"The way the project is designed, you cannot move the equipment to another hospital or county."

He also cited rigidity in the project's contract, which raises the question of whether there was a needs assessment.

Extending the tender without addressing these issues, Mutua said, would further compromise the project's outcome.

A year ago, governors proposed an extension of the project for three years subject to some conditions.

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