Kembi Gitura in heated exchange with Senators over KEMSA saga

A Senate committee has directed for another special audit on how the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) appropriated funds for COVID-19 supplies.

The committee’s probe into KEMSA’s procurement process was characterized by heated exchanges, that left officials hard-pressed to explain irregular procurement procedures.

On Friday, KEMSA Board chairman Kembi Gitura and suspended CEO Jonah Manjari appeared before the Health committee and the Senate Ad Hoc committee on COVID-19.

Senators sought first to know whether KEMSA’s Board was directly involved in the procurement procedures.

Gitura hit a raw nerve when he said that the Board does not micromanage KEMSA’s operations adding that it only gives guidance and approves the State agency’s financial year budgets.

Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina: “We have tonnes of emails to show that the board was directly involved in the procurement procedures. Why is it that the chair of the Board is saying that he does not have a role in procurement yet you are directing that the contract be signed immediately?”
Gitura: ‘Are you through? Whoever alleges must prove. You should ask me for the email instead of looking at leaked documents.”
ole Kina: “What is your interest, were you bribed?”
Gitura: “Are you through?”
ole Kina: “Wait! I am not through. I will tell you when I am through. Don’t take us as if we are foolish or stupid. We know what we are dealing with, we have gone through the documentation….”

The Ad Hoc committee was not satisfied with the answers given to their line of questioning.

Kisumu Senator Fred Outa: “Don’t lecture us! Why were you writing this letter if you were not involved? You were giving orders to the CEO yet you say the Board only gives guidances. You wrote expressly “my instructions are that the contract be signed not later than noon.”
Gitura: “You will not force me to be wrong. Understand so that you do not sensationalize the issue. If the tender had not been signed and the tender period lapsed, we would now be blamed for letting a tender period be lapsed so that we start all over again.
Nominated Senator Beatrice Kwamboka: “Just the other day you wrote an interdiction letter to secretary Wanyonyi? What time was he given the letter? Did he have time to defend himself? What was the logic behind it?”

The committee further asked the officials to name those responsible for allegedly misappropriating billions of COVID-19 funds; account for exceeding its Ksh. 4.650billion budget; the variation of prices for the PPEs and health products and technologies for COVID -19 compared to the market prices; what it cost for warehousing and its racking system.

In their defense, the Board cited that procuring supplied for COVID-19, was a matter of an emergency, coming at a time when there were only 3 months into the next financial year and as such the processes were a matter of urgency.

At the end of the probe, the Ad Hoc committee gave KEMSA’s management 7 days to provide a list of all the companies that have supplied the agency; all LPOs, tax compliance documents and appropriation of its budget.

KEMSA has to further provide detailed explanations of transactions above Ksh. 1 million

Sam Ongeri (Kisii Senator): “Procurement law must be observed regardless of the much did the board have to do with this decision?Items should not be procured before the process is followed. What did the board know? What did the management know? We will need to invoke a forensic audit.”
Samson Cherargei (Nandi Senator): “It is unfortunate if people use COVID to perpetuate the corruption pandemic, the thunder that will strike them is doing press ups. If anyone is found culpable, it is a betrayal of trust and honor.”
Michael Mbitho (Trans Nzoia Senator): “We are not witch-hunting.we want solutions to the benefit of the Kenyan people. We want a report on the latest stock reports. We want a report on the relationship between KEMSA and development partners.”

Besides KEMSA’s own internal audit, the Auditor General, the Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) are also investigating the alleged scandal.

The president has directed that the agencies complete their investigations within 21 days.

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