Troubled Kemsa appoints second acting CEO in 16 months

Kemsa offices

The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority's offices in Industrial Area, Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) has appointed a second acting chief executive officer in a span of 16 months amid a restructuring plan at the scandal-hit agency.

The changes will see John Kabuchi, who is also the chairman of the Covid-19 vaccines procurement and logistics committee take over as the acting CEO from Edward Njoroge effective December 28, 2021.

Mr Njoroge took over the position in an acting capacity last August. His appointment followed the suspension of Jonah Manjari alongside other senior directors at the drugs agency to allow for the investigations into claims of corruption in Covid-19 procurements.

The new appointment is coming at a time the agency has been reorganising its operations in the wake of the scandal linked to the purchase of Covid-19 kits.

“Mr Kabuchi takes over from Mr Edward Njoroge whose acting ceases with immediate effect as he resumes his previous role as director, operations,” said Kemsa’s director of human resources and administration Ebla Mohamed in a memo to staff yesterday.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) documented evidence of “criminal” behaviour in the purchase of Covid-19 kits and declared there was “irregular expenditure” of Sh7.8 billion.

Kemsa bought the Covid-19 emergency equipment at Sh6.3 billion in a procurement the EACC flagged as irregular and recommended charges against some officials.

A special audit by Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu showed that Kemsa may realise a loss of Sh2.33 billion if the products, which were stuck at its warehouses, are sold at the current market price.

In a separate report, the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority catalogued instances of alleged inflation of prices for products procured by Kemsa.

Paracetamol tablets sold at Sh40 per pack were bought for Sh66.50 during the pandemic, while alcohol-based hand sanitiser priced at Sh313 was purchased at Sh495, the report said.

The move saw the agency in November announced plans to lay off 900 workers under a new structure.

Personnel from the National Youth Service (NYS) were called to manage operations at the agency on a temporary basis.

Employment and Labour Relations Court however stopped Kemsa from declaring redundant or terminating services of 44 of its employees pending the hearing amd determination of the suit filed by the workers.

The staffers claimed they had not breached the terms of their respective contracts of service with Kemsa.