Afya House has once again been thrust into the eye of a storm after it emerged that a senior official in charge of medicine quality control and regulation has remained in office for months despite a court order stopping his appointment.
High-level correspondence between the Ministry of Health and the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) shows that Fred Siyoi remains in office as the acting Chief Pharmacist and registrar of the board despite an August 18 court order that barred him from holding the position on grounds that he is not qualified for it.
Justice Nelson Abuodha issued the order after he found that the ministry through principal secretary (PS) Julius Korir – who is the department’s administrator - and Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu “un-procedurally, illegally, unconstitutionally and in breach of express provisions of the law” appointed Dr Siyoi to the position despite his lacking the mandatory qualifications.
“It is hereby ordered that the PSC (Public Service Commission), Ministry of Health and the Attorney-General are prohibited from appointing Dr Siyoi or any other unqualified officers as Acting or Substantive Chief Pharmacist and this Acting and Substantive Registrar of the PPB,” said Justice Abuodha. The case is pending determination. The Chief Pharmacist’s position is a sensitive docket whose holder doubles as the PPB’s registrar - the country’s chief administrator of the quality of medicines.
A public notice in the dailies dated September 6 and a subsequent newspaper article show Dr Siyoi signing off as the Registrar, PPB.
Dr Siyoi confirmed in a telephone interview that he was still in office in an acting capacity and would apply for the position during the ongoing search for a substantive head.
“I am still in office as acting Chief Pharmacist and Registrar. I will go for interviews to confirm the position if the PSC calls for it,” Dr Siyoi said.
Justice Abuodha had also found the PSC in breach of the law for failing to take corrective action against Dr Siyoi’s appointment despite being informed of it.
Dr Siyoi is said to lack a Master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences, a mandatory qualification specified by the PSC in an advert it published in the dailies before Dr Siyoi’s mid-March appointment.
The Chief Pharmacist is a senior public service position in Job Group S that requires one to have served as Senior Deputy Chief Pharmacist for at least three years.
Court papers show that Dr Siyoi has none of the requirements.
Information from the PSC shows that Dr Siyoi attended an interview on March 16, 2015 for appointment to Job Group R as Senior Deputy Chief Pharmacist, meaning he served in the job group for less than the required period to serve as Chief Pharmacist even in an acting capacity.
Court documents show that the PSC had written to Dr Mailu asking him to “take necessary action” as it had declined Dr Siyoi’s appointment in view of the court orders but no action appears to have been taken.
“This is to inform you that the PSC has not considered recommendation that Dr Siyoi in your ministry, be appointed Acting Chief Pharmacist in view of the court orders in Judicial Review application number 14 of 2017 – Republic Vs CS, Ministry of Health, head of PSC,” said PSC chief executive Alice Otwala.
“Take necessary action.”
This comes as 26 senior medical doctors who were recently deployed out of their plum Afya House offices moved to challenge the decision in court, terming Mr Korir’s decision unprocedural and laced with ethnic undertones designed for “execution of corruption, demotions, punishments and vendetta”.
They also accused Mr Korir, the PS, of disobeying court orders and allowing Dr Siyoi to continue holding office.