Sicily lied about MES tender committee, PSs tell Senate probe team
The committee which steered the leased medical equipment project was duly constituted, contrary to outgoing Health CS Sicily Kariuki’s assertion, according to two Principal Secretaries.
Peter Tum (Labour) and Julius Korir (Youth Affairs), who are former Health PSs, said they were aware of the committee’s existence.
On Friday, the duo defended their role in the controversial Sh63 billion project when they appeared before a Senate committee. They said their actions were within the law.
Kariuki had on Tuesday claimed before the Senate that she had no official information on the existence of the committee.
She threw the team chaired by Morang’a Morekwa – an administrator, under the bus, saying Morekwa’s position as chair of MES was strange.
She recommended that the team be surcharged for costs arising from any claim raised by Seven Seas Technologies – the firm whose contract for installing the IT component of the MES project was terminated.
The company was to install the Health Care Information Technology (HCIT). It has a chance to claim Sh3.8 billion as compensation for the termination.
“No appointment letter exists to show how the negotiators were identified. The tender was not subject to negotiation because it was competitive,” the outgoing CS said.
Tum and Korir said the committee was formed by Transport CS James Macharia in 2015 to steer the MES project. He at the time held the Health docket.
The committee had 12 members consisting of biomedical engineers, radiologists, and nurses among other specialists.
Korir said it was the Morekwa team that had been advising him on the project after he took over from then CS Nicholas Muraguri.
He said after he joined the ministry, he formed another committee – also chaired by Morekwa, to concentrate on the IT component.
Meanwhile, the one formed by Macharia continued to steer the other five lots of the MES tender.
“The letter designating the HCIT committee is real. When I got to the ministry, MES was ongoing and created it to specifically deal with HCIT,” Korir said.
The Senate committee headed by Isiolo’s Fatuma Dullo and Bungoma’s Moses Wetangula is probing the MES project.
Senators Paul Githiomi (Nyandarua), Mary Seneta (nominated), Millicent Omanga (nominated), Stewart Madzayo (Kilifi), and Christopher Langat (Bomet) were at the Friday meeting.
Core to their investigation is whether procedures were followed in the contract and whether Kenyans got value for money in the project.
MES was initiated in 2015 and was to help furnish 98 hospitals – among them two referral facilities, with specialised equipment.
The senators want to establish why Kenyans are paying for equipment that they have never used.
Tum said it was the HCIT committee that advised him on payments and execution of further contracts.
He signed a tripartite agreement for Seven Seas to access funds from KCB. This is part of the probe.
“I engaged Seven Seas Technologies on the tripartite agreement between it, the MoH, and KCB. I relied on technical advice from our team. The main contract was signed in 2017 before I was appointed,” the PS said.
Morekwa, whom senators described as the cog in the MES probe, said he was shocked by Kariuki’s assertions.
He told the lawmakers that he even attended a meeting called by the CS on MES in which he was identified as the MES chairman. Minutes show the same.
“I am the chairman of the two committees. The one that handles HCIT is different from that which did the main procurement but both are functional,” Morekwa, who is on his way out of the ministry, said.
“I am not aware the CS didn’t know we exist. We had a lot of interactions with her in the course of the implementation of the MES,” the official said.
His team was accused of introducing clauses to the contract which were not part of the original tender – hence the claim by Seven Seas.
However, Morekwa tabled the original tender documents showing that all bidders were entitled to a letter of support and funders agreement – which Tum signed.
The prevailing concern is that the radiology, theatre, ICU, and dialysis equipment are unutilised in some counties which pay Sh200 million annually for them.
The question the probe team wants to be answered is whether there was a needs assessment before the equipment was sent to counties.
While denying altering the tender, Morekwa said each of the MES contractors were to be granted a letter of support.
He also denied that he knew of any proceedings leading to termination of the Seven Seas tender. He learned of it through the media, he said.
“The CS is lying that the clause did not exist,” he said, further contradicting the AG who said the clause was not in the original tender.
Solicitor General Kennedy Ogeto had told the senators that the clause was introduced during a meeting between the Morekwa team and Seven Seas officials.