EACC investigating top KEMSA officials over Ksh.7.7 billion tender for COVID-19 PPEs
Published on: July 17, 2020 10:44 (EAT)
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) is investigating top officials at the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) in relation to a controversial Ksh.7.7 billion tender for the emergency procurement of COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) that was to be delivered by July 22, 2020. EACC is concerned that the tender was hurriedly awarded to a company known as KILIG limited using direct procurement under the cover of emergency needs, despite the fact that they were given three months to supply as opposed to one month. KEMSA Board Chairman, ex-Senator Kembi Gitura, says even though the investigations are yet to be concluded, any of the top officials charged will have to step aside if it gets to that point. When the coronavirus pandemic reached the country on March 13 this year, many agencies and Kenyans went into overdrive to achieve preparedness to handle the outbreak. KEMSA being the sole agency mandated to procure essential medical commodities for government facilities hurriedly sought to procure what they termed health products and technologies, whose details are complete PPE kits comprising overall, goggles, masks, boots and gloves. While this was a noble initiative, it is the details that are alarming; As per KEMSA’s approved budget, only Ksh.4.7 billion should have gone into the procurement. Meaning the commitment letters issued by KEMSA exceeded budget by Ksh.3 billion. The tender was for procurement of 450,000 kits, each valued at Ksh.9,000. KILIG Limited was identified through direct procurement, with questions now being raised over this mode was chosen for such an expensive tender. In a letter signed by KEMSA CEO Dr. Jonah Manjari Mwangi, KILIG was granted three months to deliver the supplies. KEMSA Procurement Director Charles Juma wrote to his CEO in April and June raising questions over why KILIG was chosen in direct procurement for a tender that should essentially be open to competition given its size. Juma stated that at the time of procurement, the authority already had stocks of upto 160,000 kits, while more than 200,000 more were expected to be delivered. He raised questions why there was an urgency to procure 450,000 more with an excuse of emergency, yet three months were allowed for delivery. Juma observed that direct procurement was unnecessary and that the tender to KILIG should have been revoked. His letter pointed to a reality that commitment letters were being issued by KEMSA to prospective suppliers against recommended procurement procedure. The Procurement Director advised the CEO to stop further evaluation of any samples presented by prospective suppliers, as doing so was giving the false impression that KEMSA was still involved in emergency procurement of COVID-19 response equipment. EACC has now asked for documentary evidence around the award of the tender to KILIG Limited including tender advertisement notices, bids submitted by bidders, tender opening minutes and list of all bidders. The commission also wants copies of the professional opinion on the procurement and contract agreements, having already question seven senior officials. “Virtually all the Executive Directors of KEMSA have been called to EACC to record statements. Once the investigations are complete, I’m sure EACC will involve me so that we can know what exactly have been going on,” said KEMSA Board Chair Kembi Gitura. “The investigations could very well find that no offense had been committed and that will be the end of the matter. But if an officer is found to have overstepped outside their mandate and are charged in a court of law, and if the requirement is that they should step aside pending the outcome of the case, then that should happen.” In May this year, Principal Secretary Susan Mochache wrote to KEMSA CEO Jonah Manjari communicating an audit of procurement made on behalf of the ministry relating to COVID-19 whose payments were to be made using World Bank Funds. The outcome of the audit is not yet known with the KEMSA Board Chair promising action, should there be culpability of the authority’s officials.