NAIROBI, Kenya Sep 3 – Dr. Jonah Manjari who was suspended as Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) is an isolated man, with piling trouble and blame shifted on him for the COVID-19 procurement mess in the country.
Just a day after Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe and his Principal Secretary Susan Mochache denied his claims that they had instructed him to bend the procurement law, KEMSA Board Chairman Kembi Gitura and the Procurement chief Charles Juma appeared to sink him even further.
The Board Chairperson Kembi Gitura told the National Assembly’s Health Committee that Manjari ignored the board’s advise on budgetary expenditure and went ahead to write directly to the National Treasury seeking additional funds.
The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) Board has exonerated itself from any wrongdoing in the graft surrounding COVID-19 supplies procurement and instead indicted the embattled suspended Chief Executive Officer Jonah Manjari of bypassing it’s input in the entire exercise.
“The board did not authorize the budget passing from Sh4.6 billion to Sh7.1 billion on our end that is clear,” Gitura told MPs.
Gitura was categorical that it is only Manjari who can give the much-needed answers in the probe that has shocked the nation, prompting President Uhuru Kenyatta to order the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to finalise its report in three weeks.
“The KEMSA board’s role is approval of annual budgets and procurement plans and review the status of utilization against the budget and procurement plan,” he said.
Appearing before the MPs committee, Manjari who had previously claimed that he was under pressure from CS Kagwe and Mochache to ensure the tenders were awarded to particular companies, cut an image of an isolated man abandoned by his team with the submissions of the Director of Procurement Charles Juma worsening his situation.
Juma revealed that he had on numerous occasions issued advisories to Manjari not to exceed the Sh4.6 billion budget that the agency was working with at the time.
He pointed out that despite his advisories, Manjari went on to sign commitment letters to various suppliers, illegally, without involving his input.
“My action in making the advisories was to inform the senior management of the risk of going above the budget and therefore breaking the law,” he submitted.
Juma revealed that a commitment letter issued to Kilig Limited awarding them a Sh4 billion tender was not sanctioned by his office, instead blaming Manjari whom he accused of by-passing him.
“I recommended that the procurement should be revoked because the amounts required would have surpassed what the agency is usually given during a financial year and during this period we had already had enough stock in our stores,” he said.
EACC is investigating how dozens of tenders, some amounting to billions were awarded to companies, some linked to influential politicians and businessmen or brokers.
In his defense, Manjari claimed that the letters were issued in “good faith” arguing that the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic situation in the country had presented a unique challenge to the agency.
“We did this procurement during very hard times and we are reminded that as we do this there was panic in the country and hard decisions had to be made. It is in this view that as we make small decisions in life we are expected to use our heads but as we make very hard and big decisions we use our hearts,” Manjari said.
Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny castigated Manjari for violating his mandate and noted his action was suspect.
“You never wrote to the chair of the board and that means that you went and did your own things and cooked your own figures, concluded on your own awards and bypassed the board and the parent ministry,” he said.
Manjari and Juma are on suspension pending the conclusion of an EACC investigation.
Earlier during the session, Transport Chief Administrative Secretary Christopher Obure revealed that the 21 missing Jack Ma COVID-19 donations were never part of the items that were received at the airport during the clearance process that was done by the government clearing agency.
Obure said the consignment whose contents are still unknown were never part of the 697 packages that had been donated to the country to help in the fight against coronavirus.
He however, said that investigations are already underway to establish if whether the packages might have been diverted to the neighboring country Ethiopia.
When he appeared on Wednesday before the same committee Kagwe gave a commitment that the truth on the whereabouts of the packages will be unraveled.