Africa Uncensored report uncovers government medical equipment scam

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An in-depth analysis by Africa Uncensored into the government Managed Equipment Services (MES) has revealed massive irregularities in the 38 billion scheme.

The scheme was first mooted in October 2013 during a health forum that included counties and the national government.

It was agreed that under the MES scheme government would supply apparatus like X-ray and dialysis machines, operating tools and tables, lab necessities and intensive care beds to 98 hospitals in 47 counties.

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However, the head of clinical services at the Ministry of health John Odondi said at the forum that the technical and financial evaluation for the project had already been done.

Meaning things to be bought and where to buy them from had been decided upon long before the forum.

The government claimed it had conducted a need assessment which the counties disputed. The counties were not consulted on what equipment they needed and the government simply ignored them.

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Nine months after the forum, tender No. MOH/001/2014/2015 worth Sh38 billion was issued by the ministry for supply, installation, testing, training, maintenance and replacement of medical equipment through the MES programme.

Shenzhen Mindray Bio-medical of China, Esteem Industries of India, Bellco SRL of Italy, Philips Medical Systems of the Netherlands and General Electric of the USA were contracted to deliver the identified items. The contracts under the MES project were signed on February 5, 2015.

The counties were then strong-armed into signing the contracts which they protested to the EACC. They were not asked which equipment they needed in their hospitals. Counties were to buy the same exact equipment. EACC did nothing.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017 at least half of the targeted hospitals received stuff they had not asked for, did not need, or in many instances, could not use.

The Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu County, for example, received seven intensive care beds even though they had just recently bought the seven beds they needed.

Local media reported hospital staff sources complaining that their new CT scan or X Ray machines stood unused as well, either because they already had them or could not operate them.

In Ndanai hospital in Bomet County, theatre equipment that was received in 2016 stood unused for three years because the hospital did not even have surgery facilities at the time.

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Former Bomet County Governor Isaac Ruto said in media interviews that he had not even signed the MoU for the deliveries, but that these were made nevertheless.

Non-medical companies also came to county hospitals to construct buildings, landscape, roofing and painting at inflated prices as part of the MES program.

This increased suspicions that sub contractors had been added to the contract presumably for kickbacks.

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The Senate finance committee investigated the matter and found irregularities. They referred the case to the auditor general who found evidence of suppliers who had supplied air to hospitals.

The Ministry of Health has tried as much as possible to keep the initial contract away from the public eye something Senator Mutula Kilonzo jr noticed.

A data leak from IFMIS showed that the supplier’s Esteem of India and Bellco of Italy had been paid Sh2.7 billion even before the contract was signed and Shenzhen of China had received KSh2 billion from 2015 while the contract was signed in 2017.

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Meanwhile, the cost of maintaining the equipment has nearly doubled. Current health CS Sicily Kariuki said counties would receive a grant to handle maintenance. That has not been the case as counties continue to rely on their budgets to handle maintenance.

A former county health officer who requested anonymity said they were arm twisted by coercive government suppliers. He said that budget making in Kenya is mostly run by vendors with the policy-oriented bureaucrats often being booted out if they disagree.

The health docket has run through 3 cabinet secretaries. The CS in charge when the contracts were mooted was James Macharia now head of transport. The one in charge from 2015 when some irregular payments were made, Dr Cleopas Mailu is now the ambassador to the UN in Geneva.

Sicily Kariuki’s MOH played hide and seek when asked to reveal the contract claiming need for a legal opinion from the Attorney General. They did not respond to requests for comment.

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