MES project work of criminal entity, Senate team finds

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020 00:00 |
A ward at the Kiambu Level Five Hospital. The facility benefitted from the MES project. PhotoPD/File

Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka

 The Sh63 billion Managed Equipment Service (MES) scheme is a criminal enterprise shrouded in opaque procurement processes, a new report has revealed.

Report prepared by the Senate Ad-hoc Committee that investigated the controversial deal claimed the project was crafted to benefit a few commercial interests.

Committee chaired by Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo observed that whereas the implementation of the MES project may have been well intended, it provided an opportunity for some officers to defraud the public.

“Entire procurement process in the MES project from the conceptualisation of the project to its implementation, is shrouded with secrecy and smells of irregularities and illegalities,” the report.

In a damning report tabled before the Senate yesterday, the committee said although the project was a public interest venture, the persons involved in the conceptualisation and implementation process from the beginning to the end did so in a manner that violated the Constitution, and the sacred principles that the project was originally conceived under.

In some instances, the committee disclosed procurements were done so as to advance private commercial interests that were supply driven rather than needs driven at the expense of the Kenyan public and in contravention of Article 201.

“This is demonstrated in the conceptualisation, initiation, procurement processes, contracting, and pricing of the goods and services. MES project was not lucky in this regard” the committee said its 253-page document. 

Committee has recommended that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) investigates the allegations raised in the report and take appropriate action within 90 days and report to the Senate on action taken.

According to the team, the matters raised in the report were serious in nature and required the relevant investigatory organs of government to pursue.

Inquiry process

“Some of the issues raised during the inquiry manifest clear incidences of maladministration or criminal conduct.

Where allegations are made of a criminal nature, it may be the case that due to the Committee’s limited mandate, it may not make conclusive findings,” the committee held.

“The committee’s view therefore, is that some of the issues raised and established during this inquiry process merit further investigations,” the report further stated.

President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the MES project on February 6, 2015, with the Ministry of Health entering into a partnership with five foreign firms, who were mandated to provide specialised medical equipment.

However, the Council of Governors had opposed the project, saying that county governments were not consulted in the tendering process.

It was noted that even as counties continue to use the equipment, a myriad of challenges continue to surround the leasing of the equipment with the most grave one,  being the annual payments remitted by counties towards leasing.

County governments now remit Sh200 million every year up from Sh95 million in 2014 when the equipment was first supplied.

“Committee noted with concern that this is the only project where conditional grants meant for counties and appropriated under the County Allocation of Revenue Acts, are deducted at the source and transferred to the Ministry of Health instead of being deposited in the respective County Revenue Fund,” the report says.

According to the investigations of the committee, some of the equipment in the project was either overpriced, substandard, delivered late, or undelivered at all.

In addition, paraphernalia, according to the senators, were neither inspected nor vetted by the relevant government agencies and casting doubt on the project.

Former and current Health Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries, the international vendors, sub-contractors, professional bodies and the former Attorney General contradicted each other on major aspects of the deal to the shock of senators.

However, the Auditor General, Controller of Budget (CoB) and Council of Governors (CoG) shed light on the acts of commission and omission by the Ministry of Health officials in the medical equipment leasing scheme.

Auditors revealed that the officials manipulated procurement laws, varied contracts and bulldozed county governments into accepting the equipment without proper consultation between the two levels of government.

Illegal acts

“The committee recommends that all public officers found culpable of irregularities and illegalities committed in the furtherance of the adverse commercial interests, which were at the expense of the people of Kenya be prosecuted and barred from holding public office,” the report recommended.

“Furthermore, the committee recommends that all private entities and persons found culpable of participating in the irregular and illegal acts in the procurement and implementation of MES project be barred from doing any business with both levels of the government,” the report noted.

During the dreadful grilling sessions, in some instances, the witnesses who appeared before the committee were taken to task over the huge variance and the increased allocation but were unable to neither justify nor defend their actions.

A consulting firm that advised the Ministry of Health to lease the medical equipment was put on the spot for misleading the government.

Strategic Partnership Associates (SPA) Infosuv East Africa Limited that was picked through a restricted tender, in a consortium with audit firm PKF, carried out a value-for-money assessment that informed the ministry’s choice for the MES programme.

On his part, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) did not inspect the equipment that were imported into the country.

Kebs Managing Director Bernard Njiraini then told the panel that the agency did not have the mandate to test the machines.

Njiraini, however, said his agency had received a letter from then Health CS Cleopa Mailu warning them to keep off the equipment.

Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) admitted that the equipment supplied to 122 health facilities in 47 counties were neither inspected nor given a clean bill of health before being commissioned.

This means patients have been using renal dialysis machines and X-ray equipment, among others, that have not been certified to be free of medical risk.

In other recommendations, the committee has asked the office of the Auditor General to undertake a forensic audit as a priority and report back to the Senate within 6 months from the date of resolution of the Senate on the report.

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