It is a new dawn at the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) as a new chairperson as well as board members are expected to start work today (Friday, April 30).
In what has been seen as a win to US Agency for International Development (USAID) in ongoing standoff with KEMSA, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed Mary Chao Mwadime as KEMSA board chairperson.
In a Gazette Notice No. 4010 dated 28th April, 2021, President Uhuru said that Ms Mwadime will serve as KEMSA board chair for a period of three years, with effect from Friday (30th April, 2021).
Ms Mwadime takes over from Kembi Gitura at the embattled parastatal. Gitura was in March 2021 moved to Communication Authority (CA) as its board chair.
Gitura’s appointment not only irked, but also threw Kenyans into confusion, with his new appointment coming amid a multi-billion shillings scandal that is still rocking KEMSA. At the centre of it all is the awarding of irregular tenders for COVID-19 supplies.
KEMSA is accused of procuring Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) at exorbitant prices. Apart from the tenders being awarded to unqualified firms, money was paid to goods and services not delivered.
While appearing before the Senate Health Committee, Gitura, a former senator himself, said that the board does not micromanage KEMSA’s operations.
On his part, suspended KEMSA CEO Jonah Manjari alleged that he received communication from the board chairperson (Then Mr Gitura) via email, directing him to irregularly award tenders to specific companies.
“My position is that EACC has absolutely no role to play in the execution of the contract and your letter aforesaid will only cause undue delay and was not in the least necessary to write,” Gitura allegedly told the CEO in an email dated July 27.
Entire KEMSA board sent packing
The overhaul of the tainted authority did not end with Uhuru appointing a new chairperson.
In a Gazette Notice No. 4011, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe sent packing the board members Timothy Mwololo Waema, Bibiana K. Njue, Joel Onsare Gesuka and Dorothy Atieno Aywak. CS Kagwe said, “their appointments are revoked.”
In their place, CS Kagwe has appointed Capt (Rtd) Lawrence Wahome, Robert Nyarango, Terry Kiunge Ramadhani and Linton Nyaga Kinyua as the new KEMSA board members.
Their three-year-appointment starts on Friday, April 30, 2021.
Mary Chao Mwadime and USAID
Mwadime’s appointment and the overhaul of the entire board came barely hours after President Uhuru had a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Blinken, during the meeting, expressed his government’s concerns over a lack of accountability and corruption at KEMSA.
“We have an obligation to our own taxpayers when we’re spending their money to do it in a way that is accountable and fully transparent,” Blinken had told President Uhuru.
It appears that Mwadime’s appointment is also meant to restore the faith of the US in KEMSA. A background search indicates she worked in Liberia as USAID’s Officer in charge of Acquisition and Assistance.