Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja’s name has been dragged into the Sh7.8B Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) scandal at the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency(KEMSA).
While being questioned by the Parliament’s Public Investments Committee on Tuesday, the suspended procurement director, Charles Juma said he was away from the office when his secretary, Pamela Kaburu, informed him of how she was pressurised by the CEO to prepare the Shop N Buy commitmentent letter and that when she delivered it to the CEO office she found Senator Sakaja seated there.
Shope n’ Buy is among 50 companies on EACC radar for their role in the questionable deals that have left Kemsa with a Sh6.2 billion stock it is unable to sell.
Speaking under oath, Juma said the letter that handed the firm Sh970 million worth of supplies was backdated to April, yet it was processed in June.
“The commitment letter for Shop N Buy was raised on June 5. The CEO called my secretary and instructed her to prepare the letter and backdate the same to April 30.”
Juma said that when he questioned the secretary further, he was informed that the CEO’s personal assistant had asked for the format of the commitment letters.
The procurement officer, claiming there were threats to his life, said the CEO kept reminding him there were consequences if he did not act.
“I was coerced. He gave me directives. There were a number of threats. The CEO told me I didn’t know the people I was dealing with. I perceived it as a threat to my life,” Juma said. “I can confirm that my life was in danger.”
He also told the committee chaired by Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir that eight firms were awarded tenders without his knowledge afterwards.
The firms are Regal Freighters (Sh270 million), Northlink GSC Ltd (Sh135 million), Meraky Healthcare (Sh340 million), Everywhere Distributors Ltd (Sh118 million), La Miguela Holdings (Sh180 million), Medilife Biologicals Ltd (Sh240 million), and Komtel Kenya Ltd (Sh283 million).
The procurement manager said it was Manjari who also issued a commitment letter to Kilig Ltd without reference to procurement department. The letter was cancelled.
He added that the chief executive also expressly told him not to touch Wallabies Ventures Ltd as it “had a lot of influence at Afya House”.
MPs have sought that Kaburu appears before the committee to respond to the allegations raised by Juma and explain the backdated letter.
Maragua MP Mary Wamaua said the secretary be called to enable the committee get the full picture.
“We need to invite the secretary. She knew she was committing an offence. We need to invite her so that we confirm the allegations.
“It seems there were big men and women in this country whom the CEO was issuing letters against the advisory for no further commitments,” Wamaua said
When asked for comment, Sakaja said he was at Kemsa in his capacity as then chairperson of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Covid-19.
“I was chairman of Covid-19 Ad Hoc committee. I have no links with Shop N Buy. I’m neither a director nor shareholder there,” Sakaja said.
Juma said his advisories to his colleague directors to cancel the tenders after they exceeded the budget were ignored thrice.
He said Shop N Buy is not among Kemsa prequalified firms and it was the first time his office was interacting with the company.
The officer alluded to the existence of powerful individuals who influenced the fraudulent tender awards.
Juma said there was undue pressure on the management and despite delaying some supplies, the company was granted an extension by the CEO.
“The CEO appeared to be under duress and kept reminding me that we never knew what he was going through,” he told PIC.
Juma said when he sought to stop further purchases for lack of budget, the CEO informed him some individuals had assured him there was a budget.
The officer said the firms were assigned commitment letters from the CEO’s office and the procurement team only knew after suppliers sought payment for what they delivered.
On whether there was the need and budget for the supplies, Juma said Manjari once informed them that he had met some individuals who were going to assist Kemsa get a budget.
The officer was hard pressed to explain how Kemsa continued to issue commitment letters after April 21 when he issued a memo advising against further issuance.
Nassir said it was irritating that the procurement director wrote the advisory but continued giving letters to firms to the tune of Sh3.9 billion.
The committee further heard that procurement plan was drawn after the suppliers delivered goods to Kemsa warehouses.
Juma said after he advised against further commitments, he was compelled to prepare commitment letters – running into hundreds.
PIC has taken statements from Health PS Susan Mochache, Manjari, suspended commercial services director Eliud Mureithi and Kemsa board chaired by former Murang’a Senator Kembi Gitura.
The committee is seeking to unravel the faces behind the mess that has caused Kenyans Sh2.3 billion loss in the purchases.
EACC boss Twalib Mbarak said investigations into the scandal were at advanced stages.
MPs told the procurement manager that he could not run away from the breaches of procurement, much as he claimed being coerced.
“The question is how they shot the supplies to the levels that Kemsa got to. Now that the goods are stuck, why would we take you (Juma) seriously?” Nassir asked.