• The Health CS has further said those who may be involved in any misuse of the cash will face the sack.
• How about the so called invisible Mafya House cartels, some right in the First Family?
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe
As you drive up Cathedral Road to Upper Hill, the new commercial district in Nairobi, you won’t fail to notice Afya House, Kenya’s Ministry of Health headquarters.
It has been nicknamed Mafya House with a reason.
In October 2016, senior ranking ministry officials stole more than Sh5 billion through diversion of funds, double payment for goods, and manipulation of the Integrated Financial Management System.
This was revealed through a leaked internal audit report.
It showed the theft also involved payments of millions of shillings to phony suppliers in the 2015-16 financial year.
Among the companies that were named in the Mafya House theft included Estama Investments, whose listed directors Ambrose Makanga, a former banker, and Eshter Makanga were paid Sh1 billion, and Life Care Medics, which received Sh201 million for food rations. Its directors were listed as Richard Ngatia, the current president of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and owner of Galileo Club in Westlands and Eshter Wahito, and Paul Wanderi Ndungu, who until December last year was Sportspesa chairman in Kenya. Ngatia is said to be President Uhuru Kenyatta’s close ally.
There was also Esaki Limited, which was paid Sh159 million to supply anti-malaria nets, although the amount was budgeted for maternal health services. Interestingly, this firm was associated with the then EACC chairman Philip Kinisu, and had been linked to the infamous NYS I Scandal.
Notably, a company linked to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s family was also linked to the theft.
Sundales Investment was reportedly paid Sh41 million for HIV patients food. The directors were listed as Nyokabi Kenyatta, President Kenyatta’s sister, and his cousin Kathleen Kihanya.
Between September 2014 and February this year, for instance, Sundales Investment won at least five separate tenders from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority — worth Sh270 million.
It was registered on September 12, 2013, just five months after Uhuru’s election.
There was also Medafrica Limited, which had Njage Makanga and Naomi Wanjiru Miritu listed as directors.
Then Health Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri’s threatened a Business Daily journalist for doing the story on the theft.
This is just but one and recent of the graft cases that will be listed later in this article, and which have ensured the Health ministry retain’s the number 2 position in the list of the most corrupt institutions in the country.
In the National Ethics and Corruption Survey 2018 by EACC in November 2019, the Ministry of Health was the second most corrupt ministry (17.9 per cent), after Interior and National Coordination (47.5 per cent).
It is against this background that when Health Cabinet Secretary was being vetted for the position in February this year, he pledged to destroy Afya House cartels.
“Some will not like what I will do but I am not going there to please people,” Kagwe told the National Assembly Committee on Appointments.
It didn’t take long and there are questions about the expenditures of the Covid-19 funds, most of them donated by foreign countries and World Bank.
“There will be no theft of Covid-19 resources under my watch, Kagwe,” declared on Thursday.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe
The Health CS has further said those who may be involved in any misuse of the cash will face the sack.
How about the so called invisible Mafya House cartels, some right in the First Family?
A historical perspective.
It is a known secret that corruption was in every root, stem branches and leaves of Kenya during President Daniel Moi’s regime.
So, Mwai Kibaki run and won the 2002 presidential race on an anti-corruption platform and appointed Charity Ngilu as the Minister of Health. Kibaki himself had occupied the office between1988-91.
With the new dispensation, new cartels appear to have cropped up during Ngilu’s time as minister.
In a report by the Daily Nation, it was later established in 2010 that two companies owned by Ngilu’s relatives ‑- a daughter, a son-in-law, a brother and a cousin — were involved in business deals with the Water and Irrigation ministry which she headed at the time. What’s that got to do with Health scandals?
One of the companies did business with a parastatal at the Health ministry when she was in charge.
The relatives were listed as directors of GL Williams and Falconet Technologies Limited, which received at least Sh50 million from government agencies since January 2004 for various contracts.
The company, which was registered as a marketing consultancy, won a Sh35 million contract for “fitting out and partitioning” the National Hospital Insurance Fund building in Nairobi.
The firm would later win tenders with the National Irrigation Board, a parastatal under the Water ministry, for which it was paid Sh17.9 million.
It is also during Ngilu’s tenure as Health minister in July 2004 when chalk was supplied to public hospitals in a Sh60 million drugs tender. She is now teh Kitui governor, and an ally of President Kenyatta and Raila Odinga in BBI politics.
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in a recent opinion editorial also cited frustrations by cartels at the ministry during the Narc government.
“We attempted Universal Health Care under the Narc and the grand coalition governments. Vested interests and “tenderpreneurs” however ganged against it,” Raila wrote.
Enter Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o in 2008 as the Medical Services minister in the Grand Coalition Government.
He was under pressure to resign from the Public Accounts Committee to resign over a scandal involving payments by the NHIF to “phantom” hospitals.
PAC said millions of shillings in medical claims were paid by NHIF to health facilities before they were even established.
Some payments were also made to hospitals that did not qualify to receive funds from the NHIF, the committee said.
But it is during President Kenyatta’s tenure that the graft cases have escalated.
Less than a year after the 2016 Mafya House Scam, the United States in May 2017 suspended $21 million direct aid over corruption.
“We took this step because of ongoing concern about reports of corruption and weak accounting procedures at the Ministry,” the statement from the embassy said.
Another year later in March 2018, the Auditor General Edward Ouko reported that the Health ministry could not account for about Sh11 billion it had been allocated.
The Auditor-General’s 2015-16 report showed beyond the Sh5 billion that the ministry could not account in the Mafya House theft, the expenditure of an extra Sh6 billion could not be explained. Cleopha Mailu, Kenya’s Permanent Representative in Geneva, was the then Cabinet Secretary.
Just three months after this, another Sh7 billion scandal was reported in the ministry. It emerged that Kenya had lost close to Sh7 billion in the procurement of 37 CT scanners at an inflated cost of Sh227 million per unit under the Managed Equipment Service, a controversial deal between the Kenyan and Chinese governments.
Clearly, Kagwe faces a huge task because even his predecessor, Sicily Kariuki not have it easy, as there were queries over a faked tender contract.
A Dutch company hired to supply medical equipment to hospitals in a Sh63 billion programme disowned a price list tabled in Parliament by the Ministry in November last year.
Philips Medical Systems Nederland BV was initially contracted to deliver Intensive Care Unit equipment at a cost of Sh3.6 billion.
But after variations, the cost shot up to Sh4.5 billion. Philips Business Development Director Roelof Assies said the pricing for the items, according to the contract, was different from what Kariuki tabled before Parliament.
Procurement is the heart of theft, sources at the ministry say. They call it the den of cartels.
“Tender rigging did not begin with the Jubilee era. But the times have seen a massive rise of ‘tenderpreneurs’, whose strength is patronage. They exploit connections to rig the system. Brokers, the lethal handle of impunity, will take out anyone who stands between them and money,” Okech Kendo, a communications consultant and lecturer, says.
He adds that corruption is a systemic pandemic, which the CS must address, even as Kenya fumbles to contain further infections and prevent deaths.