KEMSA; the Cancer Plaguing MOH, GoK

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Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA), an agency that exclusively benefits from procuring medical supplies including equipment and medicines on behalf of the Kenya Government has been unearthed to be yet another den of thieves. In a previous address to the nation last month, the health Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Mutahi Kagwe indicated that his ministry is riddled with corrupt criminals and it is only becoming apparent why.
Only last year, Afya House lost ksh.5 billion which has not been traced to date.

Now it is feared that more that ksh. 100 billion meant for Covid-19 containment has been fleeced by the KEMSA. The United States Agency on International Development (USAID) earlier on conducted an audit on the affairs and spending of KEMSA following its dissatisfaction with how the Ksh.69 billion granted by USAID to KEMSA was missapropriated.

The audit yielded several instances of malfeasance that prompted the Network Action Against Corruption (NAAC) along with the Kenya Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to conduct indipendent audits and confirmed the worst of our fears. The Ksh5 billion that disappeared from Afya House was linked to payments made to the KEMSA board chair Dr. Kembi Gitura who is now a person of interest in the probe.

Former Attorney General, Githu Muigai was made aware of the irregular spending at the Ministry of Health and his response at the time was that the Procurement Act ought to be ammended because it allows pilferage of public funds. The Parliament through senate (upper house) rubbished Muigai’s sentiments considering the fact that the Procurement Act was tendered to Parliament through the AG’s office questioning his reluctance to act.

Former AG Githu Muigai talking on procurement laws

The Audit report reveals that KEMSA overquoted the pricing of the items it was obtaining on behalf of the government by upto 200% enjoy the exclusive monopoly as the only supplier of government for medical items. For instance, a box of facemasks that ordinarily cost ksh. 1800 were procured at a cost of Ksh. 4000/- making the cost of the acquisition interestingly pricy.

A box of 1000 pieces of pills itemized as PM07AM7001 which cost Ksh. 233 was obtained from a different supplier at the cost of Ksh. 405 a piece. Another non pharmaceutical product itemized as NMOIGAU007 that would have been obtained at Ksh. 100 was procured at Ksh. 430 each.

The cost in bulk decks in billions all stolen from public coffers.

The USAID audit concluded on 23rd October, 2019 and invited the KEMSA board chair Kembi Gitura to a meeting to substantiate the allegations in the audit report but the same never came to pass hence the disgruntlement at USAID leading to them pulling their funding. The United States government also suspended their funding of HIV/AIDS control project it had initiated with the government of Kenya through KEMSA in which it subsidised the cost of ARVs and free condoms.

NAAC CEO Dr. Godwins Agutu also indicated that the organisation’s audit found that procedurally awarded tenders were cancelled by KEMSA without following the due process and the same tenders unprocedurally awarded other suppliers who were more expensive. He gave an indication of collaborative efforts with EACC to probe KEMSA over the irregularities to bring the perpetrators to account.

KEMSA has been used as a conduit to siphon funds meant for the welfare of the public for the benefit of individuals and must be investigated. The newly appointed Auditor General will have to prove herself with this particular case” reiterated Dr. Agutu of NAAC.

“NAAC invited some KEMSA officials for yet another meeting to discuss findings of their audit but in response on 4th May, 2020, Kembi Gitura declined citing Covid 19 and instead requested for a virtual meeting.” The invitation was copied to Mutahi Kagwe, CS Health, Susan Mochache, PS Health and Ukur Yattani, CS Treasury.

With the renewed energy that president Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has had towards punishing corruption, Kenyans are hopeful of an expedited prosecution of those involved and recovery of the missing funds. We can only hope for the best. We now need an overhaul of the entire government procurement process to ensure lost funds can be traced and those responsible held accountable.

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