Ex-AG Githu approved medical kits deal, records show
Former Attorney General Githu Muigai gave the Ministry of Health the greenlight to sign contracts for the controversial Sh63 billion medical kits project, according to documents obtained by the Star.
The disclosure came only a day after the former chief legal adviser to the government accused top ministry officials of ignoring his advice on the Managed Equipment Service (MES) programme.
Githu was before a Senate ad hoc committee investigating the programme.
The committee on Thursday grilled former Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu, during whose tenure the contracts were varied from Sh38 billion to Sh63 billion.
According to documents obtained by the Star, the State Law Office during Githu’s tenure approved the contracts, together with letters of support given to the initial five international contractors.
In a July 10, 2015 letter, the former AG said he received a confirmation from the IKM Advocates, the firm contracted by the ministry to offer legal advice, that the MES contracts signed by the ministry reflect their instructions.
“In addition, my office has independently reviewed the MES contracts and we hereby ascertain the validity of the contracts and further affirm that the obligations of the government expressed in the transaction documents constitute legal, valid and binding obligations,” the document signed by Githu.
Further, he confirmed reviewing the letters of support advanced to the firms and that they conformed with provisions of the Public Finance Management Act.
“Arising from the above, my office hereby clears the MES contracts as well as the GoK letters of support as modified,” the document states.
On Wednesday, Githu blamed CS James Macharia, who was then at the ministry’s helm, and the then Principal Secretary Khadija Kassachoon for ignoring his advice.
He said he only gave the greenlight to the ministry to sign pre-contracts with the contractors on February 6, 2015, at State House.
Thereafter, he maintained, the ministry was expected to enter into further negotiations and send the documents to his office for review before signing the final and binding contracts.
“The greenlight was for the ministry to go back and negotiate the final contract. This meant they will not sign them – they will negotiate with the vendors. After they finish negotiating them, they would send them to me for review,” he said.
“They never complied with that,” Githu told the ad hoc committee.
On Thursday, Mailu, who succeeded Macharia at the ministry, was at pains to explain why the contracts were varied and the amount increased to Sh63 billion from Sh38 billion.
Mailu, now Kenya’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, said the contracts were varied after he received a request from counties to increase the number of facilities benefiting from the MES programme.
The committee, chaired by Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo, also sought Mailu’s opinion on the Health Cover Information Technology (HCIT) signed during his tenure but cancelled by his successor, Sicily Kariuki.
HCIT was envisioned to interlink all the 98 facilities benefiting from the MES programme. It was to have a nerve centre at Kenyatta National Hospital.
The Sh4.9 billion HCIT contract had been awarded to Seven Seas Technologies Limited, a local company, on October 2, 2017, before it was cancelled last year after a dispute arose in the contract document.
The former CS explained that the project was first conceptualised under GE East Africa Services Limited with respect to Lot 7.
However, he noted that during the execution of the initial contract, the HCIT component was not implemented. It was advertised and awarded during his tenure.
“Indeed, if we want to believe that project proceeded prudently to meet the expectations of the document and government, then it would have saved the exchequer Sh6.8 billion,” he said.
“I want to say that the contract was awarded towards the end of 2017 and I left in January 2018 when the project was being implemented,” he said.
He maintained that the project began well and was supposed to connect various hospitals that had benefited from the MES scheme.
By Julius Otieno