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KEMSA Board Chair Kembi Gitura at a past function.

Kembi Gitura: KEMSA Board was not involved in procurement of Covid-19 related commodities

KEMSA Board Chair Kembi Gitura has defended the state corporation against corruption allegations, saying that the pandemic was a peculiar event hence the normal procurement laws did not apply during the acquisition of items for Covid-19, ”When the first case of Covid-19 was announced on March 13th 2020, it was declared to be an emergency, and the procurement laws on emergencies are different from the normal procurement laws. In an emergency, you are allowed under the Act to procure without going through the normal tendering process,” said the Board Chair when he appeared on K24 TV’s Punchline show hosted by Anne Kiguta. ”We sought advice from the Solicitor General and also from the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority of Kenya (PPRA) on this matter.” explained Gitura.

Mr. Gitura also debunked claims that the Board is directly involved in the procurement of items at the parastatal. adding that its role was to give general directions on the day to day operations, ”KEMSA has a Director of Procurement and a Commercial Director. In total, there are around  six (6) directorates at the parastatal, over and above the Board, whose work is set out because the main mandate of KEMSA is to procure and warehouse on behalf of the Ministry of Health.” He also went on to say”…the Board, therefore, would not be involved in procurement. The Board gives general directions on the operations. It also is in charge of the confirmation of the Procurement Plan for the financial year. We had a budget for the year 2019/20. When we set out the plan, we did not anticipate the Covid-19 pandemic. It came as an emergency. However, KEMSA was still expected to have Covid-19 related commodities to mitigate the pandemic when it struck.”

The former Murang’a Senator also revealed that the procurement of Covid-19 commodities was done between the months of March, April and May on behalf of the Ministry of Health, and that the prices of the said commodities has since changed, ”The N95 mask, for instance, could have been bought for around 800-900 shillings in March. However, the same mask could today be bought at between 450-500 shillings. The allegations or reports that are coming in do not seem to take notice of the fact that prices have fluctuated.”

Mr. Gitura also rubbished allegations that he was the recipient of a bribe to the tune of Ksh 45 million, and asked his detractors to report any wrongdoing to the relevant investigative agencies, ”I have never received a bribe, whether at KEMSA or elsewhere, to influence anything, and if anybody claims I have received any amount of money, my advice is that they report to the DCI or to the EACC so that I can be investigated.”

The Board Chair also expressed confidence in the various institutions mandated to audit and investigate any issues within the public entity, ”The reason we have a Director of Procurement, an internal auditor, and also the Office of the Auditor General, is because questions of any irregularities can be answered. Instead of people making allegations of corruption and double pricing, it is possible for the Auditor General to come out and address the issues clearly.”

Kembi Gitura was speaking amid allegations that KEMSA was involved in corruption during the procurement of Covid-19 related items, leading to the suspension of three top officials at the entity including the CEO Jonah Manjari.

Here is the full interview: