KENYA— The Kenyan Senate Committee on Health has been conducting a hearing to investigate what went wrong during the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA) procurement process for mosquito nets backed by US$26 Million from Global Fund.

The Senate Health Committee is investigating the circumstances that led to Global Fund cancelling an initial tender to distribute 12 million Long-Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLINs).

Consequently, Global Funds revoked the Ministry of Health from continuing to purchase the nets, leading to the Ministry returning the intermediary fee it had received of US$592,174.

In a letter addressed to the Ministry, the organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, noted that the anomalies arose in an audit of the funds allocated for the campaign.

Instead, through its Global Fund polled mechanism website (wambo.org), has directly awarded two manufacturers the contract to supply the nets.

While appearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Principal Secretary Chris Kiptoo said his ministry was not in any way involved in determining the specifications of the long-lasting insecticidal nets that were to be supplied to 22 specific counties.

Kiptoo was responding to a question by committee chair Jackson Mandago who wanted to know the relationship between the ministries of Treasury and Health on the matter under probe.

While appearing to shift blame to his health counterpart, the PS claimed bureaucracies in the ministry were the reason for the delay in the implementation of the Global Fund’s activities.

Kiptoo also added that proper communication channels were not used in the whole process citing a letter from a Global Fund coordinator to the Ministry of Health which he termed as unprocedural.

The PS has, however, committed to addressing the faults identified in a bid to restore the relations with the donor.

“We are rolling out e-procurement as the government’s one way to seal such loopholes that arise in the process,” Kiptoo said.

The committee is seeking to ascertain the circumstances that led to the cancellation of the tender.

On the other hand, Global Fund’s coordinator Stephen Muiruri told the committee that the government lost at least US$592,174 in the procurement process.

“We can only say the country lost two percent of the total funds on procurement because what normally happens is that when KEMSA procures, it pays two percent of the total costs of the nets,” Muiruri said.

Out of the total cost, the agency is set to contribute three percent for warehouses and another similar percentage for distribution.

The tender was canceled over what the body said was skewed procurement in favor of one of the bidders.

Muiruri was responding to a question by Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni who said local suppliers may have beneficiaries.

However, Muiruri reassured that Kenya would still benefit from the program which is open until June 2024.

The long-lasting polyethylene and polyester nets were to be distributed from November this year to July next year as part of the mass malaria campaign.

Recap of how KEMSA bungled the procurement of mosquito nets

Suspended KEMSA CEO Terry Ramadhani pleaded with the committee to spare her of any wrongdoing in the scandal.

“It is my prayer that you may find it in your favor to vindicate me and allow me the reprieve to continue with my career record,” Ramadhani said in her submission.

Health CS Susan Nakhumicha suspended her alongside other staff members serving within the Ministry of Health, National Malaria Programme, and Kemsa on May 15.

Moreover, President William Ruto on Monday, May 15, revoked the appointment of Josephine Mburu as PS for Public Health and subsequently dissolved the entire KEMSA board.

Those suspended are Martin Wamwea, Lenson Kariuki, Pauline Duya, Livingstone Njuguna, and Charles Kariuki Chege who were serving under the MoH National Malaria Programme.

The CS has appointed Andrew Mutava Mulwa as the acting CEO.

While KEMSA approved five companies to be given the multi-billion tender, investigations by Global Fund showed that they were not qualified and that two qualified companies had been ignored.

“The Global Fund review of the 5 bids that the Tender Evaluation Committee had assessed as responsive did not yield the same result,” the international body noted.

Unfortunately, this is the second time the Fund is demanding a refund for mismanaged funds in 2023.

On March 9, the Fund demanded a refund of US$281,988 allegedly embezzled through inflated prices of hotels where conferences for AIDS awareness campaigns were held.

According to the March 2023 audit, the money was embezzled between 2018 and June 2021.

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