How PS Muraguri hid Sh63bn MES contracts

September 2020 BusinessDaily; Lands Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri hid crucial contract documents related to the leasing of medical equipment to counties in a Sh63 billion deal that the Senate declared a “criminal enterprise.”

The Senate committee probing the managed equipment services (MES) project found that Mr Muraguri who served as the Health Principal Secretary between 2015 and 2017 withheld the contracts and other supporting documents on grounds that they were ‘secret’.

The committee report reckons that the project flooded hospitals with overpriced and unnecessary equipment, and recommends that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Agency investigate top public officials over the mega project.

Mr Muraguri is said to have denied then Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopha Mailu documents on the contracts.

Top ministry officials were also kept away from the documents, frustrating their input to Health and Budget committees that had earlier probed the secretive deals.

The committee adds that the Mr Muraguri had a frosty working relationship with Dr Mailu, with the two clashing over their mandates at the time the MES project was rolled out.

“The committee further observes that according to the testimony of Dr Mailu, he faced various challenges during his tenure as CS Health owing to a poor working relationship with his PS, Dr Nicholas Muraguri arising from disputes over their respective mandates, and alleged efforts by the PS to impede his work at the MoH,” the committee says in the report.

At the height of their differences, the committee says that Mr Muraguri hid the contracts and other supporting documents on grounds that they were ‘secret’, underlining fears that the former Health Cabinet Secretary was undermined in his short stint at the ministry.

Mr Muraguri, a former Director of Health Services, was also linked to controversial awarding of a tender to a local company that did not qualify.

During his tenure, the ministry unilaterally changed the project’s funding model without giving reasons to back the decision.

Kenya signed contracts with five private firms in 2015 to lease specialised equipment such as CT scanners to the country’s 47 county governments, who manage most health services, in a deal praised by the World Bank at the time for its ability to be replicated elsewhere on the continent.

The firms included China’s Shenzhen Mindray, India’s Esteem Industries, General Electric and Philips.

But lawmakers said the deal left many patients, some suffering from serious diseases like cancer, without proper care because there was no one to operate the equipment or problems replenishing supplies needed to make it function.

Amid the frosty relationship between the two, Mr Muraguri signed the letter on behalf of the Health ministry that awarded GE East Africa the contract to supply radiology kits in a deal that breached tender requirements.

GE East Africa, a local firm that does not manufacture medical kits, won the Sh24.06 billion contract to supply radiology kits to level 4, 5 and 6 hospitals in the counties.

Under the MES deal, only original equipment manufacturers were eligible to vie for the supply of specialised equipment to the 47 devolved units, raising concerns on why the ministry went for an unqualified contractor.

The firm that is majority-owned by GE Energy Europe (99.9 percent) then sub-contracted Seven Seas Technologies, a local company to supply the radiology kits.

The Senate committee did not recommend specific sanctions against the former Health PS, instead saying that any official involved in the flawed deal be charged in court and barred from holding public office.

“All public officers found culpable… be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and be barred from holding public office,” it said, adding that private individuals and firms who participated in any illegalities should also be investigated.

The EACC was also directed to probe the contract awarded to GE East Africa within 60 days on grounds of a high failure rate of the medical kits supplied.

GE East Africa is one of the five companies contracted to supply specialised medical kits to the counties under a lease deal for seven years to 2021.

The others are Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics Limited of China, Esteem Industries of India, Bellco SRL of Italy, and Phillips East Africa Limited.

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