Kemsa probe complex, at advanced stage, Mbarak says

Investigations into the Sh7.8 billion scandal at the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency are at an advanced stage, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has said.

CEO Twalib Mbarak, however, forewarned that the probe is complex, hence may take longer than anticipated.

In August, President directed the anti-graft agency to complete the probe in 21 days.

Nearly 100 days later,  the trail appears to be going cold amid confusion of state oversight bodies competing to ask questions on the shocking sleaze.

Following the President’s directive, EACC forwarded to DPP Noordin Haji a file which zeroed in on six individuals believed have had a direct role in the mess.

The DPP on October 2 returned the file to the EACC with recommendations for further probe.

Haji said the scope of the investigations is massive, with several witnesses, entities and thousands of documents.

Asked about any hopes suspects will be nailed, Twalib said the controversial purchases involve a complex web of events on the side of Kemsa and the companies.

He said the events span initiation of procurement, award of tenders, payment transactions, and delivery.

In an exclusive interview with the Star, the anti-graft agency boss said that due to its volume and complexity, the Kemsa probe is being undertaken in phases.

He said some of the aspects of the case have an international component which requires request of mutual legal assistance from foreign jurisdictions.

Twalib said the probe is focusing on the officials and companies that may have received funds fraudulently from Kemsa.

Kemsa is facing a possible loss of Sh3 billion following procurement irregularities in the purchase of PPE and face masks for emergency response.

The medical supplier has Sh6.2 billion stock of response items it is unable to dispose, unless at the said loss.

This is in the wake of untold suffering by health workers who lack protective gear. At least 12 doctors have died from the virus.

Kemsa officials recently told the National Assembly’s Public Investments Committee chaired by Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir that tenders of Sh4 billion were dished out on phone.

Some board members were involved, they said. There is pressure from a number of companies demanding pay for the queried deliveries.  

At the centre of the scandal are powerful individuals boasting deep connections to the state.

Without any tender advertisement, they knocked Kemsa doors and were given commitment letters to supply colossal quantities of emergency response items.

From his standpoint, the EACC boss said Kemsa officers and companies found culpable will be charged with committing economic crimes.

Kemsa CEO Jonah Manjari, procurement director Charles Juma, and Eliud Mureithi of commercial services were suspended over the matter.

Assets recovery, review Kemsa procurement systems to seal corruption loopholes, and action against officers in breach of procurement laws are in play.

There are concerns, though, that probes touching on Afya House get sucked into a sea of uncertain outcomes.

Kenyans are yet to get satisfactory answers on a leaked audit which exposed misappropriation of Sh5 billion by Health ministry officials.

The mystery of Sh1 billion spent on portable clinics is also yet to be unraveled since 2016 as well as financial probity of the Sh63 billion Medical Equipment Scheme for county hospitals.

Senators rejected as full of generalities the report of a probe committee which concluded that the MES project was conceived like a criminal enterprise.

MPs, during a debate on the Health committee’s report on Kemsa purchases, expressed fury that faces of companies behind the heist are yet to be exposed.

Amid the concerns, Twalib pledged to deliver the Kemsa case citing “notable achievement in areas of prevention, enforcement, and recovery of public assets.”

He disclosed that the EACC has since January prevented the possible loss of Sh787 million in covert operations that disrupted corrupt networks.

“This year, the commission has concluded investigations in 110 high –impact cases and forwarded the inquiry files to the Director of Public Prosecutions,” Twalib said.

The cases, he said, involve high-profile public officers and their networks as well as governors.

Three governors as well as senior county officials were investigated and charged with corruption and economic crimes offences this year.

Migori’s Okoth Obado is in court on charges of fraudulent acquisition of Sh73 million, Tharaka Nithi’s Muthomi Njuki for procurement irregularities in solid waste tender of Sh34 million, while Garissa’s Ali Korane was charged with embezzling Sh233 million donor cash.

“As a result of devolution, significant amounts of public resources are being administered at the county level. Governors who yield the highest responsibility and influence are expected to safeguard public resources,” the EACC boss said in a warning to county bosses.

Twalib added that the commission is actively pursuing Sh2.5 billion in cases of unexplained wealth held by public officers.

“We have also traced and recovered public assets – cash, movable and immovable assets- of approximately Sh6.2 billion,” Twalib added.

EACC recovered Sh209 million cash, which includes Sh3.5 million that was stolen from the Kenya Meat Commission.

About Sh33.4 million which was stolen from Ministry of Interior and over Sh150 million involving National Land Commission and Kenya National Highways Authority officials were also recovered.

Twalib further disclosed that Sh8 million believed to be proceeds from defunct county council of Makuyu were also recovered this year.

Some Sh12 million was in respect of unexplained wealth by various state officers while Sh1.25 million stolen from Bungoma District Treasury was also recovered.

He hailed a judgment which placed legal responsibility on individuals suspected to own assets disproportionate to their known legitimate income to account for how such wealth was acquired.

In respect of immovable assets, EACC prides itself of the recovery of 52 more properties in Woodley estate of Sh1.04 billion; Kenya Meteorological Department’s Sh5 billion land along Mombasa Road; and Sh150 million Kisumu municipality parcels.

The Met department’s land is now earmarked for construction of low-income houses for the benefit of the public, the anti-graft boss said.

Twalib said the figure of Sh6.2 billion will increase as six parcels of recovered lands are yet to be valued. About Sh20 billion has been realised in the past five years.

A parcel within Kilifi, Kenya National Library land in Kitale, two Kitale municipality lands, Kenya Re land in Karen and Eldoret municipality are yet to be valued.

In a warning to graft lords, Twalib said the recently unveiled national anti-corruption policy has sought to seal gaps that have hampered the fight.

“The blueprint launched on October 7 has provided a comprehensive, coordinated and integrated framework for the fight against corruption and promotion of ethics,” Twalib said.

“This is a major milestone given that in 2019, the Kenya Implementation Assessment report flagged the lack of a national anti- corruption policy as one of the gaps in the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).”

Twalib attributed the country’s improved ratings on ease of doing business by Transparency International corruption index to anti-graft efforts.

“As a result of the initiatives and close collaboration with our partners in the criminal justice sector, the country’s ranking in the fight against corruption and ease of doing business has improved.”

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