More than 30 senior Ministry of Health officials have been moved from their plum Afya House offices to various outposts in a shake-up said to have been triggered by the quest to appease donors in the wake of last October’s Sh5 billion scandal.
An internal memo seen by the Business Daily shows that 35 out of Afya House’s 37 top officials have been deployed to satellite stations outside the capital Nairobi, meaning only two survived the shake-up.
Health principal secretary (PS) Julius Korir termed the deployments, which have seen some heads of departments (HoDs) move to national health facilities as consultants and technical advisers under lower ranked officers, “normal transfers”.
Mr Korir did not confirm or deny whether the transfers were related to the Sh5 billion scam that saw the US government, among other donors, suspend some of their support to Afya House. But he insisted no one had been demoted.
Top on the list of casualties is the senior deputy director of Medical Services and outgoing HoD Quality Assurance and Standards, Pacifica Onyancha, who has been deployed to Mathari Mental Hospital.
Dr Onyancha, a holder of Job Group S, will be working as a Consultant at the psychiatric facility under Dr Joseph Jumba (Medical Superintendent) – a deputy director of Medical Services (DDMS) in Job Group R.
Ann Wamai, a DDMS from the Curative Department, has replaced Dr Onyancha as HoD Quality Assurance and Standards at Afya House.
The Treasury recalled Bernard Muchere, the internal auditor behind the explosive report that exposed the mega fraud, barely two months after this newspaper exposed the shadowy figures behind the questionable contracts and diversion of free maternity funds at the ministry.
Treasury secretary Henry Rotich included Mr Muchere’s name in the list of auditors he moved in a mini-reshuffle through a memo dated November 28, 2016.
The then Health PS Nicholas Muraguri became the second casualty after he was moved out of Afya House in a March reshuffle that affected a dozen of principal secretaries. Dr Muraguri is now the Land PS.
Mr Korir says in the September 26 memo to the ministry’s director of human resources – David Njoroge – that the latest deployments were to take effect immediately.
However, the majority of those moved had not reported to their new work stations by close of business last Friday.
“They are finalising handing over in their old stations,” said Mr Korir.
Public Service Commission (PSC) chairperson Margaret Kobia said it was not unusual for 35 officials to be redeployed all at once, insisting that any staff who is not happy with the transfers could lodge an appeal with the ministry.
Prof Kobia said the corruption allegations and donors pulling out may be a concern but she has “not seen a report directly linking it to the deployment”.
“The health sector has been very fragile lately. The minister has all the powers and authority from the PSC to move staff within his ministry and not to another for effectiveness of operation,” Prof Kobia said.
“Sometimes people resist changes that could make a sector more efficient but it is not the end of it all, they [deployed staff] can always raise the complaints with the ministry and if they are not getting redress they can come to PSC.”
The transfer list also includes Martin Sirengo, the head of National Aids and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) and a DDMS, who moves to Mbagathi Hospital as a Technical Support.
People living with HIV were also largely affected by the mega scam as the interim audit report showed Sh515 million was lost through a programme under the National Aids Control Council meant to buy food and rations for the group.
Dr Sirengo has been replaced by Kigen Bartilol, a medical specialist who served as Technical Support - Mbagathi Hospital. Prof Kobia said an HoD can be deployed as a consultant without reduction of job grade.
“HoD is a leadership position that can change,” she said.