questions raised

Kenya: Ruto sacks top health officials for alleged connection to mosquito net tender scandal

By Victor Abuso

Posted on June 8, 2023 14:37

Kenya’s President William Ruto at State House, in Nairobi. (Tony Karumba/AFP)
Kenya’s President William Ruto at State House, in Nairobi. (Tony Karumba/AFP)

Kenya’s Health minister Susan Nakhumicha is in the hot seat after the Sh3.7bn mosquito net tender supply scandal hit her ministry.

The Global Fund, an international financing and partnership organisation that fights malaria, AIDS, and tuberculosis has cancelled the grant over irregularities in the procurement process.

Following the cancellation, President William Ruto sacked three top health officials led by Public Health Permanent Secretary Josephine Mburu, Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) Chief Executive Officer Terry Ramadhani, and Daniel Rono, the authority’s chairperson.

Testifying before a Senate Health Committee hearing, the three held Health minister Nakhumicha responsible for the cancellation, blaming her for a lack of clarification on the tender.

They liken their sacking to sacrificial lambs meant to benefit senior government officials.

 “My letters to the minister seeking guidance were never responded to,” Ramadhani, the suspended KEMSA head, told Senators.

She also accuses the minister of replacing KEMSA board members often, leaving her confused.

“Board members were always changed. I did not understand what was happening,” she added. Mburu says she blames external interference in the tendering process.

“Everything was beyond me,” she said, passing the blame to her colleague Peter Tum, the permanent secretary in charge of Medical Services, whom President Ruto transferred to the Sports Ministry in the midst of the scandal.

“I don’t know why I was fired. I would like to know the truth,” she told the Senate Committee.

Accusations returned

Despite admitting irregularities in the tendering process, the Health minister blames officials in her ministry, saying she discovered dubious play herself. “Suspended officials were directly linked to the irregularities, according to our internal audit report,” she says.

She adds that the cancellation has seen the state lose another KSh370m ($2.6m) which was originally earmarked for warehouse and distribution of the nets. Before sacking the Health officials President Ruto issued a stern warning to corrupt officials in government. “You will carry your own cross if found corrupt,” he said.

Samuel Olando, the executive director and human rights activist from Pamoja Trust, a Nairobi-based NGO advocating for public social-economic rights, tells The Africa Report that judging from the past, a lack of political will in combatting corruption scandals will leave Kenyans in the dark.

“I don’t expect the truth to come out,” he says.

Olando called for the Health minister to take responsibility for the cancellation of the tender and to resign.

Malaria situation

According to statistics from the World Health Organization, Kenya has reduced the prevalence of malaria by over 50% in the last decade. The number of new cases has also significantly decreased due to creating awareness of the importance of sleeping under treated nets.

With the project of distributing long-lasting insecticide-treated nets now put on hold, millions of Kenyans from low-income households are at risk of contracting malaria; a disease that kills more than 10,000 people annually, mainly children, according to the Health ministry.

More than 10 million people would have benefitted from the project from the Global Fund, according to the Health ministry, with a long-term plan of distributing 18.3 million nets targeting 28 regions by 2024.

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