Procurement authority indicts Health PS, Kemsa boss over scam

Thursday, September 24th, 2020 00:00 |
Kemsa board chair Kembi Gitura with acting CEO Edward Njoroge when they appeared before National Assembly Health committee, yesterday. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka

Embattled Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache has been dragged to the centre of the Sh7.8 billion procurement scandal at the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency.

The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA), which has investigated the award of tenders at the trouble agency, has indicted PS Mochache alongside suspended CEO Jonah Manjari among other officers in the procurement and finance department at Kemsa of engaging in “illegal acts’ in the entire procurement process for Covid-19 items.

While Mochache is being accused of issuing unlawful instructions to Kemsa, Manjari is on the spotlight for illegally issuing vague commitments letters.

Manjari is further accused of failing to conduct market survey as well as handpicking suppliers out of a registered list of suppliers occasioning a dead stock of Sh 6.2 billion.

The public procurement watchdog has also accused Kemsa of failing to avail procurement documents relating to 25 firms, which are part of the 141 companies that were awarded contracts for review.

“In the event that Kemsa does not provide these documents, then the accounting officer (PS) who is responsible for ensuring the law is complied with will be held responsible,” PPRA Director General Maurice Juma told a joint Senate committee on health and Covid-19 pandemic on Wednesday.

Juma was presenting the authority’s preliminary report on the procurement confusion at Kemsa to the committee investigating the scandal chaired by Trans-Nzoia Senator Michael Mbito and his nominated counterpart Sylvia Kasanga.

 “There was a letter Ref. No. MOH/ADM/1/1/171/ VIL. I (196) dated April 15, 2020 by Susan Mochache, Ministry of Health, instructing the CEO to disregard all other requests made in relation to Covid-19 as they had been captured therein including the list items to be procured, their quantities, prices and firms to be invited,” the PPRA report reads in part.

Juma said Mochache’s instructions, as the ministry accounting officer was illegal and should form basis for investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).

Potential suppliers 

“There was a letter from PS MoH, which directed Kemsa to procure items from specific suppliers and also the prices were indicated therein.

This is irregular because in the procurement like this that were done by Kemsa, the MoH should have just referred the matter to Kemsa indicting the items to be procured, quantities, specifications and probably the delivery time frame and where these items were to be delivered to,” Juma told the senators.

While appearing before the National Assembly Health Committee a fortnight ago, Mochache denied directing Kemsa to buy the items from specific firms.

In her defense, she explained the list she attached to the letter she wrote to Kemsa was generated by the authority itself.

According to investigations by PPRA, the PS’s directive and the letters of intent from potential suppliers initiated the procurement of the Covid 19 items.

Upon receipt of the intent letters from the PS, Manjari issued commitment letters without seeking professional opinion from procurement officer contrary to the law.

“The commitment letters did not contain clear specifications despite deliveries being based on the letters,” Juma noted.

“Most of the items procured, prices were based on letters from MOH and intent letters from suppliers.

We also noted that the procurement plan estimates on items such as paracetamol tablets 500mg Blister of 100s previously sold at Sh40 per pack but were bought at Sh66.50 during the Covid-19 period,” he added.

Meanwhile, the EACC has announced commencing a second phase of investigations into the alleged scandal targeting at least thirteen firms that were awarded contracts worth millions of shillings at the medical supplies agency.

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Eliud Wabukala and Commissioner Mwaniki Gachoka told a joint senate committee that the commission phased out probe to cover all the ‘aspects of the complex’ exercise.

The commission last week submitted its investigation report to DPP Noordin Haji, recommending prosecution of top Kemsa officials with various offences under the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, 2003; the Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Act, 2015, and the Public Finance Management Act, 2012.

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