Anxiety at Kemsa as staff sent on compulsory leave

Friday, November 5th, 2021 00:00 |
Kemsa acting CEO Edward Njoroge (left) and board chair Mary Mwadime during a press conference in Nairobi yesterday. Photo/PD/GERALD ITHANA.

More than 900 employees of the troubled Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) face an agonising 30 days during which they will be on compulsory leave as the agency mulls their fate.

Though the Kemsa board was quick to deny it, sources intimated to People Daily that personnel from the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and National Youth Service (NYS) were being mobilised to run Kemsa operations on a temporary basis.

In a communication from the acting chief executive yesterday, all the 900-plus employees were advised to work from home as they await further instructions from the board that has embarked on a major restructuring of the State agency that could see a number of them declared redundant.

Acting CEO Edward Njoroge said only essential services staff would be allowed into the premises.

“By reason of the foregoing, and as required by the Employment Act, this letter serves as an official one-month notice that your position may be affected and made redundant,” he said.

Kemsa board chairperson Mary Chao Mwadime said the work-from-home order was a procedural formality to facilitate review of the organisational structure that will be done expeditiously to ensure the staff complement is fit for purpose and within approved establishment levels.

Mwadime disclosed that the move had been taken after a recent survey revealed the agency was underperforming and unable to meet its obligations to Kenyans.

Some of the challenges facing the agency, Mwadime noted, included lack of financial control, uncollected debts, supply chain shortcomings, warehousing and distribution problems, dead stock pile up and purchase of non-priority items.

“These challenges confirm that organisational reform efforts need to be stepped up to position the authority as an effective player in the local healthcare system,” Mwandime told a press conference at the authority’s headquarters.

The decision comes barely a month after Parliament recommended prosecution of former senior Kemsa managers, among them chief executive Jonah Manjari, procurement director Charles Juma and his commercial counterpart Eliud Muriithi.

Others recommended for investigation were Finance director Waiganjo Karanja and Legal department head Ferdinand Wanyonyi.

Public Investments Committee (PIC) chairperson Abdulswamud Shariff Nassir submitted the recommendation in the National Assembly following a probe on Sh7.8 billion spent on purchase of Covid-19 related materials.

Universal coverage

The PIC also prescribed that all the 112 companies that supplied PPEs be surcharged the more than Sh3.9 billion they were paid for supply of the controversial goods. The Kenya Revenue Authority was also directed to investigate whether the suppliers had declared and paid taxes.

The committee also recommended that the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) investigates the parastatal’s board members on their role during the procurement of PPEs with a view to preferring charges against them.

Yesterday morning, all non-core staff member were issued with “General Notice Letters” signed by acting CEO Njoroge, which stated that all will be given due consideration to ensure an inclusive and fair process.

Njoroge said in the notice that in identifying positions and employees that will be affected, seniority, skills and competencies, merit, ability and reliability will be considered.

At the press conference, Mwadime noted that the Kemsa reforms were aimed at strengthening the delivery of the Universal Health Coverage.

She, however, denied reports that KDF and NYS personnel were set to take over operations at the authority.

“As a board, we have not sanctioned any other body to run operations during the period,” she said.

According to the board, the authority is currently facing a financial crisis which has been blamed on lack of controls and mounting debt.

Taskforce recommendations

The warehousing and distribution function was in chaos which had led to huge pile up of dead stock, purchase of non-priority items and poor optimisation of distribution models.

The board has also fingered the procurement department which has been facing operational inefficiencies.

In July, a multi-agency taskforce was formed to provide an independent operating recovery strategy for the authority to facilitate organisational effectiveness.

The authority’s Immediate Action Plan and Medium-Term Reforms Working Committee comprising public service administration experts backed by international counterparts drawn from the World Bank and the Africa Resource Centre embarked on the process of identifying areas that needed to be addressed to improve efficiency.

 “The team was expected to review the Kemsa Reforms Implementation Committee (KRIC) reports and take into account the immediate action report,” Mwandime said.

She said the taskforce report had revealed challenges in critical functions within the authority that deserved to be addressed expeditiously.

“The challenges identified in the report confirm that the authority is currently grossly underperforming and largely unable to meet clients’ urgent needs, particularly the delivery of essential medicines and products to the counties, referral hospitals and programmes,” explained the board chairperson.

She added that this had endangered lives of Kenyans and is gravely threatening the realisation of UHC coverage, which is critically predicated on a successful and optimally operating Kemsa.

Mwandime said after a review of the report, the board resolved that the challenges will require further evaluation in several areas.

These include organisational structure, governance to determine the best-fit approach to leadership and oversight across the authority.

 “As the review gets underway and in compliance with legal requirements governing labour management, the board has issued General Notice Letters to all staff working,” she revealed.

 Mwandime, however, declined to disclose the number of the non-core staff members and those who will continue working from their work stations.

 All staff, she said will be engaged and appraised throughout the notice period, and that the necessary counselling and psychological support will be made available to all staff.

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