Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache may carry the burden of Statehouse cartels over the COVID-19 scandal, she is on the spot over a letter she allegedly wrote directing the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority to procure Covid-19 supplies from specific firms. Well, KEMSA was not obliged to follow her orders since their procurement policies and procedures are superior, the letter was a mere advisory and not an order.
Mrs Mochache, whose demotion by President Uhuru was retracted moments after her reshuffle on Wednesday, is set to be the face of the Covid-19 looters as the probe takes center stage.
Kemsa board chaired by ex-Murang’a Senator Kembi Gitura appeared to throw Mochache under the bus in the Covid-19 procurements mess.
The board told the National Assembly Health Committee how Mochache wrote to the agency trying to direct on how to procure the Covid-19 emergency supplies.
In her letter dated April 15, Mochache specified to Kemsa the items they were to procure, listed specific suppliers they were to source them from, as well as the prices.
Through the letter, which Kemsa officials termed as unusual, Mochache authorised the procurement of goods worth Sh758.7 million.
“Disregard all other requests made in relation to Covid as they may have been captured under this approval,” reads the letter tabled before the Health committee.
On Thursday, Kemsa procurement officer Edward Ndungu told the committee chaired by Muranga Woman Representative Sabina Chege that the PS’s order was “abnormal.”
The price lists attached to the letter show a stark discrepancy in prices with the company that bid the least given the lowest quantity to supply.
For instance, Mission for Essential Drugs – which charged Sh250 a piece – was allocated 1,000 face-masks while Megascope – which bid at Sh900 a piece – was allocated 10,000 pieces.
The agency would have bought more supplies if the tenders would have been awarded to the lowest bidder.
However, Mochache’s letter, which will now be at the centre of the probe by investigative agencies, occasioned taxpayers billions of shillings in high prices of goods supplied.
According to the letter, Mochache directed Kemsa to buy 9,900 pieces from KEMA EA Ltd at Sh700 a piece; 4,000 pieces from Biroyal at Sh700; 2,100 pieces from Encartar Diagnostics at Sh700 per piece and 1,000 pieces from Shil Trading at Sh900 a piece.
The PS directed the agency to acquire 10,425 full PPE kits from Megascope; 493 from Tikasan Holdings; and 792 from Faram EA at Sh9,500 a piece.
She also instructed Kemsa to source ventilators from Megascope which supplied 30 pieces at Sh2.8 million each; 11.5kg medical oxygen from BOC Kenya and quarantine tents.
Mochache further directed purchase of lab reagents and consumables.
MPs raised issues with the price variations and why expensive bidders were awarded the lucrative contracts at a time the country was frantically sourcing for Covid-19 supplies.
It turns out when Health CS Mutahi Kagwe appeared before the same Health committee last week, he said the ministry had not given instructions to Kemsa on how to procure goods.
“The ministry does not micromanage institutions. It only comes in at the policy level, and not micro level,” the CS said. The letter tabled by KEMSA chair contradicts CS Kagwe
On Thursday, the committee questioned Mochache in light of the revelations in her letter to Kemsa.
“It will be the wisdom of the committee to verify the document and counter check the details they (MOH officials) gave Hon Sabina Chege said.