• Saturday, 22 June 2024
Ruto fires Public Health Secretary, suspends Kemsa's CEO, and sends the entire board home

Ruto fires Public Health Secretary, suspends Kemsa's CEO, and sends the entire board home

Over a Sh4 billion mosquito net supply scandal, President William Ruto fired Public Health Permanent Secretary Dr Josephine Mburu, suspended Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) CEO Terry Ramadhani, and fired the agency's entire board. According to a Monday evening dispatch from State House, he has also appointed former Housing Principal Secretary and Farmers Party leader Irungu Nyakera as Kemsa board chair.

The move follows an exposé that revealed Kemsa botched a Sh3.7 billion tender for the supply of treated mosquito nets. It also revealed that rogue Ministry officials may have embezzled at least $1.353 million (Sh185 million) from a donor-funded campaign, leaving the government facing refunds and potential sanctions from the Geneva-based Global Fund.

"The alleged maladministration on the part of Kemsa is with regard to the procurement of treated mosquito nets for those vulnerable households, which could have led to significant exposure to the disease and increased its severity in the endemic regions," President Ruto's Chief of Staff Felix Koskei wrote in a dispatch.

 

Susan Nakhumicha, the Health Cabinet Secretary, has appointed Dr Andrew Mutava Mulwa as acting Kemsa CEO and reconstituted the medical agency's board. She has appointed new Kemsa board members Hezbon Omollo, Bernard Kipkirui Bett, Dr Jane Masiga, and Jane Nyagaturi Mbatia.

The investigation into Kemsa and the Ministry of Health comes after it was revealed that Kemsa botched the billion-shilling tender for the supply of treated nets meant to help millions of low-income households prevent malaria, costing the State corporation at least Sh370 million in revenue.

 

The winning bidder was supposed to supply 10.2 million treated mosquito nets under the Global Fund-funded tender, but missteps by Kemsa have caused the Geneva-based organization to demand action against officials who botched its implementation.

According to external documents seen in a state of anonimity, the Global Fund has now cancelled Kemsa's procurement process, which appeared to be flawed in favor of a bidder who did not meet mandatory requirements, at the expense of an actual mosquito nets manufacturer.

According to the documents, the only firm that met all requirements under both Kenyan and Global Fund procurement laws and guidelines, Tianjin Yorkool of China, was unfairly excluded from the tender evaluation.

Because of the scandal, Kenya now faces blacklisting by the Global Fund, with the donor threatening to cut funding for the malaria program in 2023-2024.

The organization gave the Ministry of Health 60 days in April to provide evidenced explanations for how a flagged Sh72.8 million portion of donor funds was spent or refund the amount. The Global Fund is looking into an additional Sh75.8 million spent on "prohibited practices." No information has been provided about the practices.

According to the Global Fund's review, an unspecified amount of the money was paid out through M-Pesa and described as salaries in order to conceal the embezzlement.

Communication between the Global Fund and two Principal Secretaries – Dr Josephine Mburu and Eng Peter Tum – indicates that this is not the Ministry of Health's first brush with donor money misappropriation.

Some of the previous officials implicated in embezzlement and other instances of funds misappropriation are senior managers.

"There are employees who have previously engaged in prohibited practices and are still working on Global Fund grants." The same people are allegedly involved in additional fraudulent activities. "These employees should be removed from the management of Global Fund grants immediately," the Fund demanded.

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