Counties are in a dilemma on how and where to access Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) even as the country experiences a second peak of Covid-19 cases.
The dilemma has been occasioned by the grounding of PPEs worth Sh6.2 billion at the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) under investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission following alleged procurement irregularities of the items.
The Sh7.8 billion procurement investigation has left a number of suppliers unpaid.
Kemsa is in a Catch-22, as it can neither dispose of the items nor procure new ones, yet the counties need to be equipped to handle the second wave of the virus.
Council of Governors chair Wycliffe Oparanya said counties had no money to buy PPEs. This means even if the Sh6.2 billion dead stock is released, the national government still has to appropriate cash for the purchase.
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Mr Oparanya, who is also the Kakamega governor, told The Standard no county was currently able to deal with the increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases.
“As we speak, the PPEs are the major problem. We do not have them. We appeal to the national government to give us the money to buy PPEs or supply them to us because our medical staffs are in danger,” said Oparanya.
Suppliers, on the other hand, have stood their ground, saying they will not do business with Kemsa, the body mandated by law to procure medicine and medical supplies for the 47 counties and national government unless they are paid.
In September, the National Assembly Health Committee, in its probe report on Covid-19 medical items, called on the government to pay suppliers.
This is after the agency admitted that it had procured items worth billions of shillings based on a directive from the Ministry of Health.
When Kemsa made the procurement orders in May, the recommended N-95 surgical mask market price was Sh700. That price has since come down to Sh150.
When the country was experiencing the first peak in June, counties were allocated a conditional grant of Sh5 billion to help them prepare to handle the health crisis.
In April, President Uhuru Kenyatta gave counties a three-month waiver on mandatory purchase of products and supplies from Kemsa.
James Nyikal, a member of the National Assembly Health committee and Seme MP, said the three-month window and donations had complicated things at Kemsa. As a result of the two moves, other suppliers flooded the market with the same products at a lower price, rendering the stock at Kemsa dead.
If the Sh6.2 billion stock at Kemsa was to be disposed of, then the authority would incur a loss of Sh2.3 billion due to price fluctuation.
National Assembly Health Committee chair Sabina Chege said during the investigations that it would require the approval of the Health Cabinet Secretary for Kemsa to dispose of the items at a loss.
“The other option is for a budget to be drawn for the national government to purchase the items and donate them to counties,” she said.
But even as the ping-pong continues, the situation has not changed for healthcare workers.
In its situational report on November 6, the Ministry of Health indicated that 2,011 healthcare workers had been infected, with 22 dying across 42 counties.