Scandals that rocked the Health ministry in 2020 - Beaking Kenya News

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Sunday, 27 December 2020

Scandals that rocked the Health ministry in 2020


“Let me tell you something. This building here called Afya House has some very good and very committed people. It has got people who work day and night, who work so hard in such difficult circumstances but this building here has got its fair share of criminals.”

Those were the words of Health CS Mutahi Kagwe on May 27, barely three months into his tenure at Afya House.

Kagwe decried how unscrupulous officers at the ministry were more concerned about their personal gain at the expense of service to citizens.

The harder he tried to fight them, the harder they fought back, Kagwe appeared to suggest.

But more was to come, as tenders for supply of Covid-19 equipment would be turned into a cash cow as medics suffered and cases skyrocketed.  

In March, before Kagwe could settle into his new job, claims emerged of officials selling blood from the donor banks.

The CS invited detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to probe the matter.

Having just taken over from Sicily Kariuki, he wanted the detectives to help tackle the problem of perennial blood shortage in the country.

“The ministry is aware that there are criminal elements both within the ministry of health who are colluding with outsiders to escalate the problems pertaining to blood countrywide,” Kagwe said.

It is unclear what state the investigations are currently in and no one has been arrested.

“I can’t really comment on the investigations that are currently going on.  The DCI has already stepped in and obviously when there is an investigation going on, you don’t want to disclose everything about it but what I can tell you is there is an investigation going on and we expect arrests to be made,” Kagwe said.

Before the dust could settle on the alleged blood trade, the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. The Covid billionaires scandal came along.

First, 21 packages of Covid-19 donations from Chinese billionaire Jack Ma went missing.  

Transport CAS Chris Obure told Parliament’s Health Committee that 21 packages of assorted medical supplies did not reach Nairobi from Ethiopia.

The CAS said the ministry realised that the 21 packages were missing after verifying with the packing documents from China.

“We realised that 21 packages were short delivered, I assure you we will continue to pursue the matter with the Ministry of Health to ensure they are delivered,” Obure said.

Kagwe said investigations into the matter were also going on.

“Like any other marketplace there are few mad cases in here. And we will unearth them as we move on. These are people who will call a public officer, will call a businessman and tell them that they have got an order which they can help get getting,” Kagwe said.

The whereabouts of the consignment remain unknown.

But worse news came from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority. 

As Covid-19 ravaged the country, an audit report revealed that some of the tenders to buy items to fight the pandemic were designed to siphon funds.

A special audit by the Auditor General Nancy Gathangu showed that Kenyans lost Sh2.3 billion in the Covid-19 items procurement scandal at Kemsa.

According to the auditor, Kemsa over-procured items worth Sh6.3 billion which are lying idle in its warehouses as health workers go on strike over PPE and other demands.

If the items are sold at the current market prices, Kemsa will only recover Sh4 billion, leading to the Sh2.3 billion loss.

"During the period under review, Kemsa irregularly utilised Universal Health Coverage and Capital Budget to procure Covid-19 related items worth Sh7,632,068,588 without evidence of approval of the budgets by relevant authorities," Gathangu said.

The auditor noted some of the companies that were awarded the contract were established in January and February this year.

The reports indicate that Kemsa failed to conduct market surveys for the items, thereby obtaining them at exaggerated prices.

It also hand-picked non-prequalified suppliers with inadequate experience in the market and exposed public funds due to excess procurement of the items.

Senators demanded the companies that supplied Kemsa and were paid be forced to take back their items to save the taxpayer from further losses.

"There is no way you can register a company on January 22 and you are awarded a tender worth Sh900 million within three months. Which qualification do you have? When were you prequalified?" Narok Senator Ledama Olekina asked as he pushed the auditor to reveal the directors of the companies.

The companies – also under probe by EACC – signed commitment letters to deliver masks, PPE and other hospital consumables to the agency.

No element of the tender was advertised, raising questions about how companies were identified and awarded contracts.

In August, President Uhuru Kenyatta President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the evaluation and award of Kemsa tenders to be done online amid investigations of irregular use of billions of shillings for Covid-19 kits at the state agency.

Uhuru gave the ministry 30 days to develop the online system where Kenyans will be able to view who has tendered, won contracts and the tender prices.

“We want to see how the tender was evaluated, how people bid and how it was awarded. This level of transparency will help to manage resources of Kenyans taxpayers in an open and transparent manner,” the President said.

Investigations by the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission into the Kemsa scandal are still ongoing. 

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