CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE

Mess in MES hurts neediest, benefits wealthy

It's a great shame to our beloved country that such a noble idea could produce thieves, fraudsters and more deaths of poor Kenyans forllack of essential medical services

In Summary

• Some mischievous individuals used the Big Four agenda to come up with a project whereby hospitals were to be equipped with high-tech medical equipment.

• The Senate in its wisdom decided to investigate and set up an ad-hoc committee due to the suspicious transactions with regards to the project.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto inspect medical equipment procured through the Managed Equipment Services (MES) Project at State House, Nairobi..
MES MESS: President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto inspect medical equipment procured through the Managed Equipment Services (MES) Project at State House, Nairobi..
Image: PSCU

Corruption is at the core of the state with regards to the leasing of the Medical Equipment Scheme, or Manaed Equipment Services..

To begin with, some mischievous individuals used the Big Four agenda to come up with a project whereby hospitals were to be equipped with high-tech medical equipment such as CT scans, MRI machines, dialysis equipment, Intensive Care Units, complete withall the trimmings.

The logic was for government to lease them from reputable international firms that had Kenyan or East African subsidiaries, since it had developed a habit of buying equipment but not repairing it after minor mechanical breakdowns.

This MES scheme was meant to solve this problem by having government lease instead of buy the same equipment for maintenance purposes.

To take advantage of economies of scale, it was conceived that the equipment be centrally procured. Forty-six of the  47 governors were coerced into signing the agreements by the national government, save for ex-Bomet county boss Isaac Rutto.

Interestingly, monies that are usually allocated to the counties as conditional grants (funds from the national government share), especially from development partners, were to be used to finance the programme.

The Public Finance Management Act, 2012 requires that such monies be deposited into the County Revenue Fund, but in this case, monies were deducted at the source.

The Senate in its wisdom decided to investigate this matter and set up an ad hoc committee due to the suspicious transactions with regards to the project.

As a result, they visited several county hospitals and were shocked to find that some of the equipment was in stores due to various issues such as poor power supply or lack of trained ersonnel.

In West Pokot county, an X-ray machine wasn’t installed due to lack of a transformer to supply three- phase electricity.

Despite the government having procured doctors from countries such as Cuba to help with the shortage, there are many Kenyans with these skills who would benefit from such opportunities - if only the MES programme would have made a proper assessment of the required skills ab initio, or from the beginning.

However, the final report by the Senate ad hoc committee led by Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo clearly states that this whole project was conceptualised as a criminal enterprise between local benefactors, on one hand, and multinationals keen on stealing from poor nations to extend their tentacles and medical market dominance on the other.

How do you explain that some of the leased equipment manufactured locally was leased to government more than 10 times their purchase price?

For example, an instrument trolley that costs Sh15,000 was hired at Sh275,267. A linen trolley that costs Sh25,000 was hired to at Sh312,708, patient stretchers that cost Sh30,000 were leased at Sh2,213,573 and a resuscitation patient trolley that costs Sh50,000 was hired at Sh1,651,811. Stitching removal sets that go for Sh5,000 each were hired at Sh406,747.

This is truly mega corruption at the core of government. It's  instructive to note that the initial contract for this scheme was Sh4.7 billion for seven years but curiously in the 2018-19 budget, the figure had been varied to Sh6.1 billion. When we questioned the then Finance CS Henry Rotich, he argued that it was a mere computation error.

Some of the other glaring irregularities include the unconstitutional withdrawal of funds for this project against the provisions of Article 189 of the Constitution.

Further, legal advice from the office of the attorney general wasn’t followed and it’s inconceivable to imagine that such official state of affairs could be taken as mere suggestions.

Some of the equipment supplied never met the standards as set out by the Kenya Bureau of Standards and institutions such as the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency failed to comply with their statutory obligations.

As a result, more than Sh43 billion has been used in this scheme, yet there is  very little to show for it.

The Senate report, much as it brings out the malaise that has bedevilled our health sector, fails to confer personal culpability to state and public officers involved in the conceptualisation and execution of this project way back in 2013-14.

We need to be careful about how funds are siphoned out of public coffers, only for government to borrow back the same funds through banks as Treasury bills and bonds as private equity.

In the narrative of this country’s underdevelopment, we must own up to the fact that our greatest enemy is within and that no matter how noble the ideas we may have, the selfish and corrupt manner in which we execute them only serves to further enrich a very small clique at the top.

The report was defeated in the Senate, yet Kenyans have lost a lot.

The EACC and the DCI should step in and prosecute those found culpable.

It’s truly a big shame to our beloved country that such a noble idea could produce thieves, fraudsters and more deaths of poor Kenyans due to lack of essential medical services.