KEMSA CEO Jonah Mwangi suspended over COVID-19 funds scandal


KEMSA CEO Jonah Mwangi suspended over COVID-19 funds scandal
File image of Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) CEO Dr. Jonah Mwangi. PHOTO| COURTESY

Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) CEO Dr. Jonah Mwangi Manjari has been suspended following allegations that the authority flouted procurement regulations putting at risk Ksh.100 billion of donor funds meant for battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press briefing on Friday, KEMSA board Chairman Kembi Gitura said Dr. Mwangi had been suspended together with Charles Juma (Head of Procurement) and Eliud Mureithi (Commercial Director) to allow EACC complete investigations into the matter.

“As the KEMSA board we have resolved that those three officers stand suspended from today August 14, 2020 until such a time that the EACC completes its investigations and gives a direction on the way forward. Should they be charged in court then the board again will have to sit and make further decisions,” said Kembi Gitura.

A preliminary probe by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) revealed that KEMSA officials flouted procurement procedures by direct sourcing and awarding a Ksh.7.7 billion tender to a company known as Kilig Limited under the cover of emergency needs, despite the fact that they were given three months to supply as opposed to one month.

Additionally, other companies with less than six months in operation received tenders without credible financial records being presented.

The direct sourcing coupled with other procurement irregularities saw KEMSA procure COVID-19 equipment at double the price.

For instance a special audit revealed that KEMSA procured over 1.8 million KN95 masks at a cost of Ksh.700 per piece, yet a single mask goes for Ksh.450 on the higher side.

Additionally, the disposable 3-ply surgical masks were procured at Ksh.90 per piece against the market price of Ksh.50 when bought in bulk, with personal protective equipment being procured at Ksh.9,000 when the kits were going for Ksh.4,500 on the market.

On Thursday, KEMSA board Chairman Kembi Gitura appeared to defend the prices at which the authority purchased the items saying: “when you talk about things being obtained at whatever price we must ask during what time, since the pandemic and now, because the world was in a panic mode the prices are not the same as they were then.”

In the months of April and June, KEMSA Procurement Director Charles Juma wrote to his CEO Dr. Manjari raising questions over why Kilig Limited was chosen in direct procurement for a tender that should essentially be open to competition given its size.

He further indicated that it was unnecessary and that the tender to Kilig should have been revoked. At the moment, EACC is yet to finalise on its investigations on the medical supplier.

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Story By Benjamin Muriuki
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