NAIROBI, Kenya Sep 18 – A 9-member Senate Ad hoc Committee has been established to investigate the Managed Equipment Service (MES), a multi-billion shillings project that has been at the center of a long-standing tussle between the two levels of government, over how its procurement was conducted.
The Sh38 billion project was launched by the national government on February 6, 2015, with the Ministry of Health entering into a partnership with five foreign firms who were mandated to provide specialized medical equipment.
It’s launch marked the genesis of a protracted battle between Governors and the national government with the former lamenting that their input was never sought when the national government committed to the multi-billion project.
Counties were required to pay an annual installment of Sh200 million for five years ending 2022.
While moving the motion on Thursday during its second day sitting in Kitui, Senate Minority Leader James Orengo said the much-fancied project has proved to be burdensome to the devolved units stressing that most of the counties have not utilized the leased equipment.
“The Senate Health Committee went round across counties and realized that there was so many logistical problems that ranged from some counties not having received the equipment, whereas those that had received were not using them or in other areas they were yet to be installed because of among other reasons lack of electricity,” he said.
Already, 119 hospitals across all the 47 counties are in possession of the leased medical equipment which the government envisioned would provide Kenyans with excellent uninterrupted health services regardless of their location in the country.
Orengo contends that there were serious gaps in the procurement process hence the necessity for the Senate to probe the issue. Governors have over the years since MES’s introduction also voiced its opposition towards it.
“The Ministry of Health acted in impunity by imposing these machines to counties and the Senate is rightly in its position to probe the matter,” he said.
While seconding the motion, Bomet Senator Christopher Langat decried the rolling out of the project without the input of Governors hence forcing the devolved units to channel out what he termed as “unnecessary funds to pay for the machines”.
“Most of the counties have been paying all along even before this equipment were taken to the respective county hospitals. For instance, these machines were brought to my county two weeks ago, yet we have been paying for the same for around three years,” he protested.
He noted that the hurried nature in which the contract was imposed to counties constituted grounds to initiate a probe that would unravel the truth behind its procurement.
“I intend to think that when something is imposed and rushed into implementing it raises a lot of questions that requires this House to investigate and find out why,” he said.
Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr challenged the committee members to display integrity during the interrogation period or risk being named and shamed on the floor of the House if they table a shoddy report.
“If you let us down, we are going to name and shame you openly and that’s a promise. I say so because I know on authority that just like some other committees you will be tempted with money to hide the truth,” he said.
He described the project as, “a cow which was milked by a select few top government officials,” who were out to rob millions of Kenyans their hard-earned money.
“I have no doubt in my mind that these contracts involved the big boys of Kenya and that the integrity of the Senators who will be probing this matter will certainly be put to test,” he said.
Senators who will probe the matter include: Mbito Michael (Trans Nzoia), Abdullahi Ali (Wajir), Seneta Mary (Nominated), Kinyua John Nderitu (Laikipia), Ali Farhiya (Nominated), Wetang’ula Moses (Bugoma), Petronilla Were (Nominated), Naomi Shiyonga (Nominated) and Outa Frederick Otieno (Kisumu).
The committee has been tasked with among other responsibilities to ascertain whether county governments were involved in prioritizing the medical equipment in accordance with their needs, the details of the company from which the equipment was leased, the viability and benefit of leasing versus purchase.
Others are: the availability of adequate health human resource to provide specialized health services as envisaged in the project, the operation, training and maintenance facilities in place for the equipment, the terms and period of the lease of each piece of equipment, where the equipment was supplied, the lease amount, and who bears the cost of the residual value of the equipment at the end of the lease term.
According to the Ministry of Health, the terms of the contract ends in 2022.
The government has time and again been forced to defend its decision to centrally procure diagnostic equipment for counties under the MES plan.