Kenya: Kemsa Officials Face Up to 10 Corruption Charges

26 September 2020

Top and mid-level managers at the government medical logistics supplier could face up to 10 corruption-related charges should the public prosecutor approve their suits in the coming days.

At the same time, the Saturday Nation understands that the government has stopped making further payments to companies owed money by the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) for Covid-19 supplies as investigations into the tenders gather pace.

This decision is meant to give Treasury time to sort suppliers as detectives pore through financial statements. At least Sh7.8 billion was lost to fictitious or irregular tenders, according to the DPP.

A team of top prosecutors set up last weekend by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji to peruse through files handed to him by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) is expected to give its recommendations to the DPP by the end of next week.

Top on their hit list are 13 firms awarded tenders using commitment letters drawn by suspended Kemsa chief executive Jonah Manjari without the knowledge of the procurement department. To date it is not clear which company was paid what and for what service, but it is clear that Sh7.8 billion was spent.

The DPP will make a final decision on who to charge with what crime. However, he may, as he has done before, return the files to the EACC for further investigations if he is not satisfied with what is presented to him.

Experienced prosecutors

"I have appointed a team of senior experienced prosecutors to undertake an independent and comprehensive review of the inquiry file and submit their findings to me," said Mr Haji last weekend.

Investigative agencies have already spent six days above the 21 given by President Uhuru Kenyatta to get to the bottom of the scandal and nail the culprits.

While the Saturday Nation cannot reveal yet who has been recommended for arrest, among the charges top Kemsa officials face are conspiracy to commit economic crimes, abuse of office, failure to comply with procurement procedures and wilful failure to comply with the guidelines on management of public funds. Additionally, they could be charged with neglect of official duty and misappropriation of public funds

Those being investigated include Mr Manjari, commercial director Eliud Murithi, and procurement director Charles Juma, who has also been suspended. Officials in the entire procurement and finance chain are also being investigated.

While the information contained in the files currently being perused by the DPP remains a highly guarded secret, sources have told the Saturday Nation that several companies will be asked to explain how they got commitment letters without going through the official procurement processes.

At least nine companies were awarded tenders through this method using letters allegedly signed by Mr Manjari, who had bypassed Mr Juma. During questioning Mr Manjari told investigators that Mr Juma was away at the time he issued the letters. Mr Juma, however, denied ever being away from office since the start of Covid-19.

Sh4 billion tender

Prosecutors were this week trying to establish if there was any collusion between the companies and officials at Afya House and Kemsa.

One such company, Kilig Ltd, which was registered on January 22, was given a Sh4 billion tender to supply personal protective equipment. It had no financial records and could not demonstrate its ability to supply such a big tender. Another firm, Shop N Buy Ltd, was only four months old when it was given a Sh970 million contract to supply 100,000 PPEs and 100,000 masks.

The tender for Covid-19 supplies was issued on May 26, almost two months after Kemsa had started receiving products from suppliers on the basis that there was an emergency.

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