CS Kagwe frustrating Kemsa probe, say MPs

Public Investments Committee says Health CS has snubbed them three times, delaying their report

In Summary

• PS Mochache, whom the CS sent to appear before the committee, said Kagwe was away on official duty outside Nairobi.

• The MP said the submissions of the CS was all that was left to finalise their report.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe on May 27, 2020
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe on May 27, 2020

Lawmakers have accused Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe of frustrating their efforts to complete the probe on the Sh7.8 billion Kemsa scandal.

The Public Investments Committee says this follows the Cabinet Secretary’s continued failure to show up for the panel's inquiry into what is believed was an audacious theft. 

Parliamentary committees have been probing the scandal alongside the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

EACC has finalised its investigations and recommended prosecution of key officials. However, DPP Noordin Haji is yet to act. 

Members of the committee, chaired by Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir, on Thursday protested they have three times invited Kagwe to appear before them in vain.

The PIC invited the CS in November last year, but the meeting did not materialise.

He was again called vide a letter on June 2 but sent apologies. 

In another invitation dated June 30, Kagwe responded on July 7, saying he would not appear in person but would instead send Principal Secretary Susan Mochache.

“He has been snubbing our calls to appear before this committee. This was the third time. Even the last letter for June 30 was only replied to yesterday, again with regrets he was not coming,” Nassir protested.

The MP said the submissions of the CS was all that was left to finalise their report.

“It is only his bit that is left so that we retreat to file the report of our investigations. We have held sittings with all the 103 companies that were implicated in the contracts,” Nassir disclosed. 

The PIC has been reviewing a special audit on Kemsa purchases, where Auditor General Nancy Gathungu revealed abuse of procurement laws in the purchase of PPEs currently wasting away at Kemsa warehouses.

PS Mochache, whom the CS sent to appear before the committee, said Kagwe was away on official duty outside Nairobi.

But Nassir and his colleagues expressed their frustrations that even the document the PS presented before the committee had been signed by herself.

“The whole world is waiting for us to finalise this report. He was the last witness to appear. We intend to finalise the report. We were to meet last week,” Nassir said.

The team allowed the PS to make the presentation on the condition that Kagwe would sign the same on his letterhead and attach a sworn affidavit to bolster the submissions.

“If the submissions were signed by the CS, we'd have another conversation. He is the last person. We have compiled every other thing. This is a pertinent issue that only a member of the Cabinet can respond to,” Nassir added.

PIC members, among them MPs Mishi Mboko (Likoni) and Ibrahim Abdisalan (Wajir North), said the document was best signed by the CS.

The committee’s argument was that Mochache was not in the best place to speak on behalf of the Cabinet – which the committee sought to find out if it approved the disposal of Kemsa stocks.

In her presentation, the PS revealed that the ministry was waiting for the Cabinet’s approval for disposal of the Kemsa stock – albeit with a loss of Sh2.3 billion.

Last November, the Ministry of Health presented a memo to the Cabinet seeking permission to dispose of the PPEs.

The EACC had ordered a stop to further procurement and sale of the Covid-19 response items following the graft allegations around the purchases.

The Cabinet in November last year asked the Health ministry to liaise with investigative agencies to okay their quest.

The anti-graft agency on February 9, 2021, allowed a conditional clearance of the stock after an audit and retained a reasonable amount of each item as samples for the ongoing investigations.

Last month, Kemsa responded confirming the conclusion of the stock audit and filed an inventory of the PPEs and are waiting for Cabinet approval to proceed with the sale.

“The matter is still under discussion by the Cabinet but is likely to get a go-ahead. The matter was discussed this week,” Mochache said.

Tinderet MP Julius Melly said, “There is no way the ministry can escape this. The CS has a lot of say in how the ministry is run. Kemsa did not just wake up and procure on their volition.”

But Mochache said Kemsa has its own capital funds, which they use to buy commodities for sale to state health facilities.

The committee was told that Kemsa before the EACC froze procurement, had managed to sell goods worth Sh1 billion.