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Suspended KEMSA CEO Jonah Manjari. /CFM-FILE.

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House investments panel recommends prosecution of KEMSA officials in procurement saga

NAIROBI, Kenya Sept 23 – The Public Investments Committee (PIC) on Wednesday recommended for the prosecution of suspended Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) Chief Executive Officer Jonah Manjari, alongside two directors following an inquiry into claims of corruption in  procurement of medical supplies for COVID-19 and related issues.

PIC Chairperson Abdulswamud Shariff Nassir submitted the recommendation in the National Assembly following the probe which has centred on Sh7.8 billion spent on the purchase of COVID-19 related materials.

“The EACC should also investigate and prefer charges against suspended chief executive Jonah Manjari for signing commitment letters, an instrument not recognized in law, ignoring advice of the Board that resolved to suspend further procurement of PPEs because of budget constraints,” the Nassir-led team urged..

PIC said the former Chief Executive Officer should also be investigated for failing to regularly and formally update the board on the preparedness of KEMSA management to procure Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).

Further, the committee noted Manjari failed to initiate procurement through requisitions and did not conduct due diligence on supplies prior to issuing commitment letters considering that some suppliers were not pre qualified by the authority.

The Committee also recommended that former Procurement Director Charles Juma and Commercial Director Eliud Muriithi to be held accountable on the utilization of COVID-19 funds by KEMSA.

“Juma should also face charges for failing to initiate procurement requisitions contrary to the law and allowing receipt of goods that had not passed through Quality Assurance,” the PIC report stated.

Others recommended to face investigations are the Director of Finance and Strategy, Waiganjo Karanja and Head of Legal Department Ferdinand Wanyonyi, on whether they abdicated their responsibility as the Head of Treasury and legal adviser to the CEO respectively.

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Manjari and two directors were accused of flouting procurement guidelines in favour of certain companies during the acquisition of PPEs following the outbreak of COVID-19.

The public investments watchdog team also prescribed that all the 112 companies that supplied the PPEs be surcharged the more than Sh3.9 billion they were paid for supply of the controversial goods.

The Kenya Revenue Authority Director-General was also directed to investigate whether the suppliers that worked with KEMSA had declared and paid taxes.

The Committee, in a report on the utilization of COVID-19 funds by KEMSA, recommended that the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) investigates the parastatal’s board members on their role during the procurement of the PPEs with a view to preferring charges against them.

“The board members should be investigated either severally or individually for abdicating their responsibilities,” reads the report which in particular, singled out former board chairman Kembi Gitura and a member, Joel Onsare, on the award of commitment letters to Wallabies Ventures Limited and Villa Surgical Supplies and Equipment Ltd, with a view to preferring charges against them for violation

The committee accused KEMSA suppliers of selling PPEs at exorbitant prices leading to heavy losses to the public.

The MPs noted that the KEMSA management proceeded to issue commitment letters despite instructions by Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache to procure goods within the available budget of Sh758.8 million.

“As at April, 2020, the authority had issued commitment letters for the procurement of PPEs amounting to Sh3.98 billion. The Ministry only approved the procurement of goods worth Sh758.6 million under the World Bank funded project but the authority went on to over-commit items to a further Sh2.2 billion,” the Committee noted.

The Committee said KEMSA management failed to adhere to relevant public finance management laws in budgeting and incurring expenditure for procurement of PPEs.

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Specifically the Committee found that after depleting their coffers, the KEMSA Management Board through Chairperson Kembi Gitura wrote to PS Mochache seeking permission to re-allocate the Universal Healthcare funds to purchase PPEs.

“The management exceeded the approved budgets and irregularly utilized UHC funds to purchase the PPEs. The request was turned down but the authority went ahead to use the UHC money to purchase the items,” the Committee wrote.

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