ODM defends Kemsa against Covid-19 graft claims

ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna

Raila Odinga’s ODM party has defended the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency against corruption allegations.

In a statement on Saturday by party secretary general, Edwin Sifuna, ODM said higher prices for Covid-19 equipment alone cannot be a basis for doubting the probity of those who undertook the procurement.

“We gather that the DCI has been called into Kemsa to investigate these matters. We, however, wonder how this can be so, before a credible audit by the Auditor General is carried out to ascertain the veracity of these claims.”
“Precedent has been set before, where the media goes on a sensationalist extravaganza, with half-baked information obtained from shadowy sources, ending up creating more problems than solutions,” Sifuna said.

Kemsa is under probe for a multi-billion scam after 12 firms were awarded contracts worth Sh3 billion to deliver items that were not covered in its 2019-20 approved budget as at June 4, with some multi-million-shilling irregular bids going to friends and well-connected individuals.

There is also another Sh4 billion contract awarded to a little known company fronted by a vocal Jubilee politician.
The scandal has already claimed its first casualties after the board of directors suspended CEO Jonah Manjari alongside directors Eliud Muriithi (Commercial) and Charles Jume (Procurement) as anti-graft officers’ piece together a case against individuals who have looted billions of shillings.

The board’s chairperson Kembi Gitura said the three were asked to step aside after a special meeting to allow the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to complete investigations on Covid-19 procurement irregularities and alleged misuse of funds.

Asked about graft claims by Health Committee, CS Mutahi Kagwe said the Ministry does not micromanage its agencies.

Kemsa has been left holding on to medical supplies worth Sh6 billion that it cannot move because they were bought at inflated prices in the guise of fighting Covid-19.

But ODM now says that Covid-19 equipment prices were low before Covid-19 and that “any procurement happening in the current has to come with higher values.”

“We will, therefore, not join the condemnation bandwagon, but will keep probing and defending the right of Kenyans to get government services efficiently and at the right process. For that reason, we ask that media houses and other news agencies exercise responsibility in their coverage, because sensational and baseless reports may compromise international support for our Covid-19 war, endangering ordinary Kenyans and not just the leaders. Any information of wrongdoing must be passed to the rightful agencies for clear action,” Sifuna said.

There are, however, claims that there are four senior party members who are being probed inn regards to the scandal.

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ODM went ahead to to attack Deputy President William Ruto, claiming that he went public with ‘the juvenile and improper statement that ‘at least now nobody will blame me for stealing Covid-19 funds'”.

“We have pointed out before that the DP’s recalcitrance and lack of political emotional intelligence are a hindrance to the smooth running of government. At a time when he should help the President crack the whip on corruption cartels within government, he holds campaigns at his residence while cheering wrong doing within government, in the mistaken belief that any perceived failures by H.E. the President will raise his (DP’s) dwindling profile.”

“We must ask the DP to either rise to the occasion and play the role of DP, or ship out and let the President work in peace,” Sifuna said.

He said ODM will continue raising concerns it has with government operations, specifically Covid-19 related issues, through the proper channels, but without “unnecessary drama and hubris”.

On Friday, activists staged protests in Nairobi calling for the arrest of individuals linked to the scandal.

Activist Ndungu Wainaina, Executive Director of International Center for Policy and Conflict, said the statement by ODM has historical context about the party leadership defending corrupt authoritarian in it’s quest for power.

“When Raila Odinga and his NDP started cooperation with despot [Daniel ] Moi in 1998 and later merger, he did not only become de facto defender and propper of Moi-KANU authoritarianism but also its enforcer. He unleashed his political supporters on anyone challenging Moi dictatorial rule,” Wainaina said.

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