Kagwe piecemeal order on sale of Covid items irks Senate team

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020 00:00 |
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe when he appeared before the Senate Health Committee over procurement irregularities of Covid-19 supplies by Kemsa among other issues. Photo/PD/Samuel Kariuki

Hillary Mageka  @hillarymageka

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe is on the spot for allegedly refusing to commit in writing, his directive to the troubled Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) to get rid of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) masks and other supplies worth Sh5.9 billion lying idle at its warehouses.

While appearing before the Senate Health Committee last month, Kagwe said he had directed Kemsa to sell the medical items at market price to the county governments and other institutions.

“I have written to Kemsa and instructed them to distribute PPEs and masks at the current market rate, instead of holding them because the people in the counties and elsewhere lack them,” the  Kagwe told senators on November 11.

He added: “We have also asked the counties to withdraw PPEs and masks that they may require direct from Kemsa and which will be deducted against their accounts.”

Shortage and quality

But appearing before the same committee yesterday, Kemsa disclosed that it is yet to receive any written instructions to release the items especially to medics, who complained of being forced to recycle the essential protective equipment due to shortage.

Lack of and poor quality of PPEs that comprise the safety of medics are among the 10 grievances Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union want addressed, to avert a looming strike which it postponed for 14 days to give room for negotiations.

“We have an issue of frontline workers complaining of inadequate PPEs. I was meant to understand that there was a directive for you to sell the PPEs at the current market price, has such instructions reached you?”

Trans Nzoia Senator Michael Mbito, who chairs the committee asked. “As of today morning, we have not received any written instructions,” Edward Njoroge, the acting Kemsa chief executive officer responded.

“I want a clarification, has Kemsa released the PPEs to hospitals as directed by the CS albeit verbally,” Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina further queried.

In his response, Njoroge reiterated: “We have not realised them because we don’t have written instructions to do so.”

“If the CS is not willing to commit in writing, we summon him. We cannot continue pussy-footing the CS, we must make a decision,” Ole Kina advised the committee.

“You are not a store, you should be selling these products, if they are not moving, there is a problem, have you written to the ministry,” Mbito further asked.

On her part, Nominated Senator Beatrice Kwamboka advised the committee to issue summons to Kagwe to appear before the team to explain why he had hesitated, to make the directive in writing.

“It is high time  the country knows who is telling a lie, the minister said he had directed Kemsa to release the PPEs, let’s have a joint session between him and Kemsa,” said Kwamboka.

Nevertheless, Njoroge told the committee that 115,000 PPEs have been processed and are ready for sale.

Fierce reaction

“We have 115, 000 PPEs that are ready for sale and we have a difference of about 200,000 which are yet to be processed.

For the 115,000 we are selling them at the price we bought them in March, Sh9, 000 per piece. 

We are waiting for direction from the Ministry on how to proceed with the stock,” he told the committee.

The disclosures sparked fierce reaction from the committee members, who demanded Kagwe’s summoning to explain why he ‘misled’ them, when he told them in a previous meeting that he ordered Kemsa to release the supplies at current market rate.

“There is no point of going back and forth. We end this meeting here. We summon both the CS and Kemsa at the same time, because by calling them separately, we will never get to the bottom of this,” Ole Kina said.

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