Senators to grill Kagwe over sacking of scientist

Thursday, April 30th, 2020 00:00 |
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe. Photo/PD/FILE

Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has been summoned by the Senate to explain his decision to demote a top researcher at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri).

The lawmakers want Kagwe to appear before the Senate ad-hoc committee on coronavirus to explain why Dr Joel Lutomiah was dismissed as the director, Centre for Viral Research at the institute.

Until April 17, Lutomiah was the chairman of the Kemri Rapid Response, which is in charge of laboratories testing Covid-19.

It is alleged he was dismissed, following reports that he delayed the release of Covid-19 test results of the previous day contrary to an earlier agreement with the Ministry of Health that he releases them before 8am.

It is said Kagwe instructed Kemri Director-General Yeri Kombe to remove Dr Lutomiah from any leadership position at Kemri immediately.

“You have failed in your duty to honour a matter that is of national importance. I hereby relieve you of your duties as the director, Centre for Virus Research with immediate effect,” the letter reads.

Staff morale

In the House yesterday, legislators criticised the sacking of the scientist at a time the country is fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, terming it unfortunate and suspect.

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala said Lutomiah’s dismissal would instill fear at Kemri.

“We want to know whether the sacking followed the right procedure,” Malala said.

The committee on Covid-19  headed by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja said the sacking would affect the morale of personnel working to contain the spread of the disease.

“The timing of the dismissal is wrong as it is likely to have a significant impact on the morale and motivation of the staff that were working under him,” reads the report of the committee.

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