18 June 2018

Kenya: Ministry of Health on the Spot Over Acquisition of CT Scanners

The controversial acquisition of the Sh8 billion CT scan machines has come back to haunt the government after a parliamentary committee summoned Health Principal Secretary Peter Tum to explain why the cost of the machines was inflated.

Mr Tum will Monday appear before the National Assembly's Public Accounts Committee, which is chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi.

The contract for acquiring of the machines was signed between the Treasury on behalf of Kenyan government and China through the China Development Bank, on August 21, 2017.

The agreement saw the Chinese government commit to fund 80 per cent of the cost of the 37 CT scanners, with Kenya paying the balance, which is about Sh1.7 billion.

BLATANT MISUSE

The supplier is required to supply, install and maintain the scanners in hospitals identified by the Ministry of Health for five years.

However, the controversy arose when the Treasury released the Sh1.7 billion in advance without the approval of the National Assembly, as required by the Public Finance Management Act.

Although one machine was supposed to cost Sh75 million, it has emerged that it was varied to Sh235 million, in what could be blatant misuse of public funds as the country continues to be treated to mega scandals in the public service.

This emerged even as the Treasury clarified that the amount includes the cost of the scanners, accessories, training of staff-radiographers and related infrastructure.

Mr Tum has twice failed to appear before the committee but yesterday, Mr Wandayi said that the committee expects him to respond to the "weighty issues" on the use of public funds.

SPECIAL AUDIT

"What is coming out within the public service is that there is every desire to circumvent the law and occasion huge expenditures without following the law as well as inflating the cost without paying due regard to the limited resources we have as a country," Mr Wandayi said.

In addition to the CT-scanners, the PS will also have a session with the watchdog committee on the Sh14 billion expenditure at the ministry, which Auditor- General Edward Ouko, has also questioned in a special audit of the ministry's accounts for the 2015/16 financial year.

The committee will also be seeking to know whether the Jubilee administration's policy on leasing of equipment in the spirit of public- private partnership, as happened in the Sh9 billion leasing of medical equipment to county governments this year, among other key sectors, has changed.

DELAYED PROJECT

The CT Scan project was to enable the public access to specialised services based on advanced technology at affordable cost.

This is due to the technology's ability to make fast and accurate diagnosis in emergencies. According to the Ministry of Health, there is a serious shortage of CT scanners in public hospitals.

The country has about 2.2 scanners per one million people (90 CT Scanners in the country), of which only 18 low-capacity machines are in public hospitals, and available in only 16 of 47 counties. Of the 18 machines, six are not functional hence the need to procure the 37 machines.

Constraints in funding delayed the project that was initially supposed to be rolled out in 2014 alongside the medical equipment supplies (MES).

EMERGENCY CASE

Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung'wah, who chairs the Budget and Appropriations Committee in the National Assembly, has in the past, faulted Treasury for unilaterally approving the Sh1.7 billion payment before rushing to have the MPs' nod through supplementary budget.

According to Mr Ichung'wah, the purchase of the machines is not an emergency issue as contemplated under article 233 of the constitution, which allows the Treasury to spend public funds without necessarily getting the nod of the MPs in case of emergency.

BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERS

The budget committee has been planning to tour the health facilities across the country to establish whether the purchase happened and if so, whether the machines are of the right quality.

On June 11, Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki launched the initial batch of 10 CT Scans at Thika level five hospital, which is among the first 10 hospitals in the country to receive the machines.

The others are Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH), Iten, Kakamega, Kerugoya, Olkalou, Narok, Kericho and Voi.

The installation of the scanners takes about 6 weeks. On May 25, about 11 radiologists/ radiographers and 10 biomedical engineers left the country for a- two week training in China.

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