Ruto sacks health PS, suspends Kemsa boss over tender scam

Former Public Health Principal Secretary Josephine Mburu speaking when World Health Organization handed over 8 vehicles to the ministry of health on May 5, 2023. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

President William Ruto struck at the heart of the scandal-riddled Kenya Medical Supplies Authority, sacking the line principal secretary, dissolving the board and suspending the chief executive officer.

Dr Josephine Mburu, the principal secretary state department for public health and professional standard, became the first high-ranking government official to be purged, barely a few months after being sworn into office.

She was sent packing alongside the entire Kemsa board led by Daniel Rono, while CEO Terry Ramadhani and eight other officers were suspended over Sh3.7 billion mosquito nets tender.

The president immediately reconvened the board, appointing politician Irungu Nyakera as chair and Hezbon Omollo, Bernard Bett, Dr Jane Masiga, and Ms Jane Mbatia as members.

Dr Andrew Mulwa was appointed acting CEO in the changes communicated by Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Felix Koskei.

"The complaints follow the regular verification of expenditure by the Global Fund with regard to the National Malaria Programme that targets millions of low income Kenyan households within our nation's malaria endemic regions.

"The alleged maladministration on the part of Kems is with regard to the procurement of treated mosquito nets for vulnerable households, which could have led to significant exposure to the disease and increase its severity in the endemic regions," Koskei explained.

On Sunday in his media interview, Ruto assured Kenyans that he had a plan to restore order at the agency.

"Watch this space, what you have said is correct. I am doing something about it, and I do not want to speak it now, you will see results," said Ruto.

For emphasis, he added: "I want to give you my commitment I will clean Kemsa, whatever it takes, whatever it costs, I will clean up Kemsa."

Officers suspended alongside Ramadhani are Martin Wamwea, Lenson Kariuki, Dr Pauline Duya, Livingstone Njuguna, Dr Charles Kariuki, Justus Kinoti, Cosmas Rotich and Anthony Chege.

And although Dr Mburu was the biggest fish ousted, nothing was said of a top rank government official linked to the scam.

In the scam, Partecea East Africa, had been identified as the winning bidder by Kemsa Technical evaluation committee. In its review, Global Fund audit found that none of the bids were responsive.

In an interview in a local media station, Ms Ramadhani had dismissed the finding by the donor audit review, and asserted the authority's technical evaluation report was factual.

She defended the tender evaluation committee as comprising professionals, who did their job above board.

But in the audit review report, the Global Fund fingered Kemsa technical evaluation report, citing multiple procurement gaps, including lack of pagination and lack of uniformity in identifying the winning and losing bids

In the interview, the CEO defended the authority's position stating that no funds had been lost.

In this particular tender, the authority was to earn 2, 3, and 5 percent of tender value for the various transactions, which translates to Sh74 million, Sh111 million and Sh185 million, respectively. The 2 percent is money earned for the procurement process, 3 percent is for warehouse services and 5 percent for distribution.

There were 17 bidders for the mosquito nets tender. A total of 10 million mosquito nets were to be distributed.

The procurement has now been moved to based in Geneva, causing Kenya to lose crucial foreign exchange currency, at a time the country is struggling economically.

The allegations on the bungling of the Sh3.7 billion is reported at a time malaria is the second-highest disease affecting Kenyans, according to the Economic Survey report of 2023, released last week.

According to the survey, the disease accounted for the highest caseload, at 11.7 per cent.

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