Sleuths raid KEMSA offices over loss of COVID-19 cash

Thursday, September 10th, 2020 00:00 |
Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) official load computers into a vehicle after raiding the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority offices in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/PD/GERALD ITHANA

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) detectives yesterday raided Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) and seized crucial decouments in the loss of COVID-19 cash.

Kemsa Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Edward Njoroge accompanied the detectives to sign inventory of what was taken.

It had earlier emerged that crucial documents from the procurement department had been erased.

Njoroge  was appointed by the board after the suspension of its chief executive Jonah Manjari and two directors, Charles Juma (procurement) and Eliud Muriithi (commercial) to allow for the investigations into claims of corruption in Covid-19 procurements and related issues.

Loss of funds

Detectives from EACC raided Kemsa headquarters along Enterprise Road, Nairobi where staff members and visitors were barred from entering or leaving.

“The raid was conducted very early in the morning and the agency is keen to find the truth,” said EACC head of communications, Yassin Amaro.

A source privy to the investigations told People Daily that email messages crucial to the probe, showing which companies were awarded the tenders had been deleted at the procurement department.

The raid which lasted over five hours saw cell phones, computers and laptops from top managers impounded to assist in the investigations.

Over 15 detectives arrived at the Kemsa offices at around 8.30 am catching staff and visitors off guard.

“They came in five vehicles and alighted straight outside the main gate. They identified themselves before entering.

They went to Njoroge’s office for a meeting and that was the last time I saw them,,” said a staff member who sought  anonymity.

And in a statement issued by the public relations and communications manager, Elizabeth Mwai, the authority confirmed that the detectives had taken possession of documents and electronic gadgets to assist in their ongoing investigations.

“Pursuant to a search warrant dated August 27, 2020, EACC, extended their investigations to Kemsa offices where they took possession of documents and computers that will assist in their investigations,” Mwai said in a statement.

She added that the authority will continue to cooperate with the EACC and other investigating agencies to resolve the probe in the shortest time possible.

“Kemsa remains committed to offering reliable, quality and affordable health products and technology to all Kenyans even as these investigations go on,” she said.

On Tuesday, Manjari and board members were questioned over the loss of Covid-19 funds at the State agency.

Detectives from the anti-graft agency, interrogated six officials, including chairman Kembi Gitura at the Integrity Centre for over seven hours. Amaro confirmed the six were questioned in connection to the loss of funds.

“They reported to the Integrity Centre at 9am and spent the whole day with investigators. They recorded statements on the expenditures relating to Covid-19. They left at around 5pm,” he said.

Their grilling sessions came after Manjari and the board members led by Kembi were last week also grilled by MPs to shed light on the loss of the Corona funds.

Appearing before the National Assembly Health Committee, Manjari cut the image of a man who had conducted his duties diligently.

The man, whom his bosses Health minister Mutahi Kagwe and Principal Secretary Susan Mochache, had only hours earlier described as “an incompetent manager who blames his failings on others,” came out fighting, denying all allegations thrown his way.

He changed his earlier position on procurement malpractices at Kemsa and explained that he was not coerced to award tenders to specific companies or individuals.

 “We were not instructed to procure those items from those suppliers as had been alluded to earlier,” he told the committee in an about-turn from his earlier claims of being pressured by his bosses to award tenders to particular entities.

“As CEO, I did not work under any pressure; I did my work with my eyes open,” he proclaimed.

He told MPs that his 23 years as a medic were that of a distinguished professional who has had a clear career path.

Manjari’s statement seemed to be a direct response to Kagwe, who during his appearance before the committee on Wednesday, described the Kemsa boss as a poor manager who was trying to run away from his responsibilities.

“It is, however, not my job to tell anybody to commit any crime.  And in the event that I told a CEO to do something that is against the law, the normal thing for the government to do is to say - give me what you are telling me in writing,” said Kagwe.

Spirited defence

Kembi, who also appeared before the same committee put up a spirited defence for the agency, saying no money had been lost in the procurement of the Personal Protective Equipment.

He termed the said scandal at the agency as an imagination of a section of the media. He told the committee that since March 2020, Kemsa received Sh2,181,934,518 from the Ministry of Health.

Of this amount, Sh1.5 billion was earmarked for the procurement of reagents and test kits. Sh300 million has been received in full for procurement of locally produced re-usable face masks.

He said the procurement of the reagents and masks was done in collaboration with the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

He said the agency has also received Sh777. 7 million for procurement of testing and extraction kits.

On how the funds received by Kemsa have been spent towards mitigating the effects of Covid-19, Kembi said Sh1.5 billion has been spent on procurement of home pregnancy testing slabs.

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