Personal protective equipment worth Sh790 million held by the national medical supplier has expired, a parliamentary committee heard yesterday.
Mr Edward Njoroge, the acting CEO of the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) yesterday told the National Assembly Committee on Health that the expired PPE items are part of the Sh5.4 billion-worth of equipment that the agency procured but which have remained at its stores to date.
Mr Njoroge told MPs that the items expired while Kemsa was still waiting for approval from the Cabinet to dispose of them at the current market prices.
"After getting Cabinet approval to dispose of the PPEs, we found out that items worth Sh790 million had expired. But we are doing an assessment to see if some of the items can still be used," said Mr Njoroge.
A full PPE kit has an overall, gloves, face shield and shoe covers. Mr Njoroge said the agency was checking if some of the items could be salvaged and used.
Kemsa procured the consignment at a higher price owing to their high demand when Kenya first recorded positive Covid-19 cases in March 2020.
Kemsa is said to have procured N95 (1860) masks at Sh1,300 apiece against the market price of Sh700. It ordered 5,000 pieces.
It bought KN95 masks at Sh700 each against the market price of Sh450. It was supplied with 1,836,400 masks, while disposable masks were bought for Sh90 a piece against the market price of Sh50.
The purchase of the PPE is also being investigated by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).
Kemsa currently holds stock worth Sh5.4 billion from the original procurements of Sh7.6 billion. This is after stock worth Sh2.2 billion was sold before the process was stopped by the EACC.
So far Kemsa has paid Sh4.7 billion to Covid-19 billionaires, while it still owes some suppliers Sh2.9 billion.
Approving sale of equipment
In July while appearing before the Public Investments Committee (PIC) over the Sh7.8 billion Kemsa scandal, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe told MPs that the National Development Implementation and Communication Committee (NDICC) chaired by Interior CS Fred Matiang'i approved the release of the stock into the market.
In August, Kemsa got the Cabinet memorandum approving the sale of the equipment at the current market rates, a move that will see taxpayers lose Sh2.3 billion.
Mr Njoroge confirmed to the MPs that Kemsa had already started selling the items and had already sold equipment worth Sh180 million. It has also engaged 35 counties which have ordered the items.
"The board has met several times over this matter and gave the management permission to dispose of the items to willing customers," Mr Njoroge said.
"We have been able to engage counties and referral hospitals, but they are saying our prices are very high and that we should match their prices in order for them to buy from us," Mr Njoroge added.
A report by the PIC chaired by Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir in a report tabled before the House last month recommended that suppliers who benefited from inflated prices of face masks should be forced to refund excess payment within one month. The report is yet to be debated by MPs.
Mr Njoroge said Covid-19 management had evolved and the market prices of the items have been on a steady decline, leading to Kemsa experiencing difficulties in selling the PPE.
Consequently, he told MPs that Kemsa had written to Mr Kagwe seeking approval for the write-off of the Sh2.3 billion expected loss.
The committee told Kemsa management to report back with a status report on the sale of the items.