•Mulwa said the law that forced counties to only buy drugs from Kemsa, which the courts recently quashed, had made the drug supplier complacent.
•Irungu said currently, the authority imports 60 per cent to 80 per cent of all drugs and medical products. He said that is unsustainable.
Eight counties owe Kenya Medical Supplies Authority at least Sh587 million, and one of them has not cleared its arrears for three years.
The authority gets 90 per cent of its business from counties.
It supplies drugs and medical products on credit, giving counties a 45-day credit period to pay.
Some counties, however, surpass the credit period by months and some by years.
Acting Kemsa CEO Dr Andrew Mulwa said he does not consider those arrears to be bad debts because the counties still show a willingness to pay.
He spoke on Thursday in a meeting with editors in Mombasa.
The eight are led by Nairobi with Sh243 unpaid bills, Homa Bay (Sh104 million), Busia (Sh82 million), Nakuru (Sh53 million), Trans Nzoia (Sh49 million), with Kisumu's debt (Sh34 million) going back three years ago.
The others are Mombasa (Sh13.6 million) and Nyamira (Sh9 million).
“Many times we still supply to counties that owe us money,” Mulwa said.
He said Kemsa is improving the supply period from when the order is placed.
Mulwa said the law that forced counties to only buy drugs from Kemsa, which the courts recently quashed, had made the drug supplier complacent.
“When I was Health CEC in Makueni, Kemsa always delivered on time. I never worried about the drugs’ availability. But when we were happy and relaxed, the Kemsa order started getting late. Order delivery time was 10-15 days but moved to 45 days. From that time Kemsa lost footing,” he said.
Mulwa said they are restoring the supply turnaround.
“I believe in the Kemsa team that was there 2016-18, they can do it again,” he said.
Kemsa board chairman Irungu announced they have restructured the tendering process by cancelling all past tenders and capping the maximum single tender awarded to one supplier at Sh300 million.
“We were issuing very large tenders, we asked the procurement to institute a lotting system so that someone isn’t coming to win Sh1 billion tender. Sh300m will be the maximum. People are finding their way around it but we want to open up Kemsa to local Kenyans,” he said.
Kemsa also announced plans to increase the share of products bought locally.
Irungu said currently, the authority imports 60 per cent to 80 per cent of all drugs and medical products. He said that is unsustainable.
“The solution is supporting local manufacturers. If you look at the tenders, a huge number is now open for locally manufactured products only. This is something we will push on with,” he said.
He also said Kemsa is engaging some manufacturers to eliminate middlemen.
“We are asking why we have to use Njoroge to import from China. Why can't Kemsa import directly? It will put some people out of business but it will make drugs cheaper. From next year many drugs will be bought by Kemsa directly at a fraction of the cost,” Irungu said.
Tharaka Nithi governor Muthomi Njuki supported the recapitalisation of the drugs supplier.
“If we can capitalise Kenya Airways (KQ) every year, why not Kemsa? Between KQ and Kemsa which is more critical to us as Kenyan people. We are also bailing out sugar millers,” he said.
Njuki also supported the distributors' plan to decentralise warehouses. He said this would lower costs and improve delivery of drugs to counties that are far from Nairobi.