MOMENT OF TRUTH

Panic as Senate panel retreats to write report on medical kits scandal

Panel investigted scandal for 10 months, to table report on August 4. Cost rose from Sh38 billion to Sh63 billion

In Summary

•The nine-member committee grilled current and former government officials, local and international firms. Cost increased from Sh38 billion to Sh63 billion.

•The report will be tabled in the Senate on August 4.

Senate ad hoc comiittee on MES chairperson Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo).
PROBE MES: Senate ad hoc comiittee on MES chairperson Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo).
Image: EZEKIEL AMING'A

Key figures in the Sh63 billion medical kits project are holding their breath after a Senate committee retreated to write its report following 10 months of investigations.

The Senate ad hoc committee probing the scandal since September last year is expected to table a report implicating top government officers and local and international companies.

The nine-member committee chaired by Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo has concluded its inquires and will retreat on Thursday to an undisclosed location to write its final report. It will be tabled on Tuesday on the Senate floor.

 

"We have concluded our work.  We are retreating. On August 4, we will table the report," Dullo said.

The Managed Equipment Services (MES) programme involves leasing of medical equipment to 98 hospitals countrywide.

The programme is shrouded in mystery.

Its contracts were signed with great fanfare at a State House ceremony on February 6, 2015. 

Governors said they were coerced into signing the Memorandum of Understanding sanctioning the leasing of equipment. They have termed the project a major rip-off of the taxpayer.

Governors said some equipment is not operational and they lack trained staff to operate them.

The committee questioned top former and current government officials, directors of seven international firms that supplied and installed the equipment, audit and law firms that participated in the project.

 

The government officials were taken to task over their actions that led to the bungling of the ambitious programme.

They include Transport CS James Macharia and former Health PS Khadija Kassachoon who signed the multi-billion-shilling contracts in 2015. Macharia was in charge of the Health docket at the time.

Early this week, the committee threatened to implicate Kassachoon in the scandal after she failed to provide adequate responses to queries raised by the committee.

Ex-PSs Nicholas Muraguri and Fred Segor also oversaw the implementation of the programme and were also questioned.

The two former PSs served under Cleopa Mailu who was the Health CS at the time.

On Monday, Mailu pleaded innocence, saying he was an outsider in his own ministry. He never saw the MES contracts nor was he involved in any negotiations, he said.

During Mailu’s tenure, the contracts were varied and the cost of the project increased to Sh63 billion from Sh38 billion.

Immediate former Health CS Sicily Kariuki and current PS Susan Mochache were also taken to task for terminating a Sh4.7 billion contract that was signed for the installation of Health Cover Information Technology (HCIT). The technology was meant to interlink all the hospitals benefiting from MES.

The committee also questioned Attorney General Paul Kihara and his predecessor Githu Muigai who provided legal advice to the Health ministry.

Also holding their breath are IKM advocates, a law firm that prepared contracts, letters of support and provided legal advice to the Ministry with the approval of the Attorney General.

PKF Kenya, an audit firm that advised the ministry to go for MES leasing instead of direct purchase, was questioned.

Managers of the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, the Kenyan Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) and the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) were among those who faced the committee.

International firms whose directors appeared before the committee included BellCo SrL, Esteem Industries Inc, GE East Africa Services Limited, Shenzen Mindray and Philips East Africa Limited.

(Edited by V. Graham)