As a probe into the alleged Ksh7.8 billion scandal at the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) continues, it has now emerged that some officers at the agency were under duress to award tenders to certain firms.
Appearing before the parliamentary Public Investments Committee (PIC) on Tuesday, suspended Kemsa procurement boss Charles Juma turned the tables on suspended Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jonah Manjari who he accused of flouting procurement guidelines in favour of certain companies during the acquisition of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) following the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country.
Juma told the committee that his office was pressured to draft commitment letters despite being against some of the CEO’s decisions.
Juma, who claimed 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.”
Speaking under oath, Juma noted that the CEO pressured him to draft a commitment letter for a firm identified as Shop N Buy Ltd that was one of the beneficiaries of the irregular tenders. The company is among a list of firms on the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) radar.
He said the letter that handed the firm Ksh970 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.”
Alarmed, Juma told the committee chaired by Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir that he questioned his secretary, who told him that that the CEO’s personal assistant had asked for the format of the commitment letters.
After the incident, Juma said, eight firms were awarded tenders without his knowledge.
The companies are Regal Freighters (Ksh270 million), Northlink GSC Ltd (Ksh135 million), Meraky Healthcare (Ksh340 million), Everywhere Distributors Ltd (Ksh118 million), La Miguela Holdings (Ksh180 million), Medilife Biologicals Ltd (Ksh240 million), and Komtel Kenya Ltd (Ksh283 million).
Juma mentioned that a time when he was under pressure from the CEO to draft a commitment letter for Shop N Buy, his secretary told him that Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja was at Manjari’s office.
“When she got there, she found Senator Sakaja seated there. I don’t know whether the letter was for the senator,” he said when asked further.
Juma alluded to the existence of powerful individuals who influenced the fraudulent tender awards.
“The CEO appeared to be under duress and kept reminding me that we never knew what he was going through,” he told PIC.
Manjari had previously told parliament that he was under pressure from Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe and Principal Secretary Susan Mochache to award tenders to certain companies.
He said he was receiving numerous calls, short text messages and emails from the Health Ministry officials to award tenders for the provision of various items.
The irregular procurements left Kemsa with a Ksh6.2 billion PPEs stock which the agency is unable to sell, unless at a loss.