House team queries dubious deals over life-saving machines

The medical equipment leasing programme by the Health ministry has been mismanaged, opening doors to ministry officials and unscrupulous individuals to mint billions of shillings from the project.

The ministry vote in the 2018/19 budget has revealed shady deals in a project that was aimed at addressing deficiencies in diagnosis, especially non-communicable diseases such as cancer. But which for some rogue officials, it is a cash cow to satiate their greed.

It has emerged that Sh23 billion has so far been spent on the equipment but only Sh18 billion can be accounted for.

It emerges that the ministry contracted a consultant to monitor the equipment, a role normally carried out by the Auditor General.

PKF Technologies was contracted by the ministry in 2015 to carry out the monitoring work on a contract worth Sh100 million per year.

The firm has so far been paid Sh98 million in the current financial year, according to details contained in the ministry’s vote. The contract runs for seven years.

Queries have been raised as to why there was variation of the initial tender amount and incorporation of new contractors after the deal was signed between the Suppliers Seven Seas Technologies and PKF Consultants.

MPs also questioning what would be done to the equipment in the next three years when the lease programme expires.

When contacted, PKF Technologies’ managing director David Kabeberi said in an e-mail message, “We have reviewed the queries and find that they can only be answered by the Ministry and would suggest that you contact them. Should you require any help in that regard please feel free to contact our communications advisors, Redhouse.”

“Thank you for your e-mail and for informing us of the queries you have. We presume from your earlier discussion that these relate to a contract with the Ministry of Health,” Kabeberi wrote.

Contacted yesterday, the National Assembly Committee of Health chairperson Sabina Chege said the committee was seized of the matter and would be meeting this week to discuss it.

The issue has since elicited concerns from the Senate demanding an audit into the medical equipment programme in counties to ensure that monies channelled from the National government are used for the purpose they were meant for.

The Senate Finance Budget and Trade Committee has raised the red flag that the grant, which had initially been set at Sh4.5 billion per county at the beginning of devolution, had now risen to Sh9.4 billion without a proper account on the success or failures of the programme.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr has since raised concerns in a statement sought at the Senate last week where he is questioning the whole equipment leasing deal.

“We have recommended as the Senate an audit of the medical equipment programme where there has been a tremendous increase of allocation by the Treasury over the years, without any paper work to show how these funds have been put into use,” said Kilonzo.

In the statement, he explains, “In any leasing contract, the leaser does not transfer title of the goods to the leasee.”

The leaser, he writes, should be responsible for any repairs and replacement of parts, any fee chargeable would be on actual use and not an estimate.

At the end of the leasing, the leased equipment would revert to the leaser among other conditions.

The medical equipment leasing programme, Kilonzo says, is not clear on the aspects he has raised and it would benefit the Senate and the country Committee of Finance and Budget to conduct an audit and request for information from the relevant agencies.

Further, the ministry should provide details of the actual cost of each equipment (at market rates), the value assigned for the maintenance, repair and for replacement and the status of the leased equipment after the leasing period.

“Members raised the issue during our meeting on budget allocation before we settled on how much should be allocated to the ministry for leasing of the equipment,” said Chege.

She defended PKF Technologies saying its role was well explained when the firm made a presentation to the committee.

Chege, however, said the committee’s legal experts have also taken up the matter and will advice accordingly before members embark on report-writing.

On the status of the equipment, she said out of the 98 machines and kits, only eight have either broken down or developed faults.

She further said Health Cabinet secretary Sicily Kariuki and her Principal Secretary were relatively new in the ministry and not well versed with the matter and have been given more time to gather more information.

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