The shadowy suppliers of Covid-19 related items to the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency(Kemsa) were listed as the “government’s strategic partners”, earning them preferential treatment in tendering, a review by the public procurement watchdog shows.
The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) said the “government strategic partners” label exempted the firms from traditional stringent vetting—tipping the scale in the race for the lucrative tenders.
“Further, there was no evidence of qualification criteria for the suppliers identified as strategic partners by the Government of Kenya,” PPRA said in an audit report on the tenders.
The regulator cites a case where M/s Zebra Investments Limited was awarded tender No.KEMSA/DP160/2019/2020 having been identified by Kemsa as government of Kenya strategic partner and issued with commitment letter on June 3 without meeting eligibility requirements as provided in section 55(1)(a) of Procurement Act 2015.
“Although M/s Zebra Investments Limited, who was awarded tender number….for supply of Viral Transport Media…, a response from Kemsa and Business Registration Service shows that the firm changed from business name to a limited company on June 14, 2020,” the report states.
PPRA said in the report to Parliament that Kemsa denied it access to scrutinise documents for 23 tenders.
The authority said out of 141 tenders that were to be received by PPRA by close of business on August 5, only 116 documents were submitted on August 13 and eight documents days later.
“There is need for investigations in the remaining 23 Covid-19 related tenders which were not submitted by Kemsa to PPRA,” Maurice Juma, the PPRA director- general recommended.
PPRA said letters written by the Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache, letters of intent from suppliers and commitment letters from suspended Kemsa CEO Jonah Manjari to the suppliers, determined the procurement proceedings for the subject tenders.
“We also noted that the procurement plan estimates on items such as paracetamol tablets 500mg Blister of 100s previously sold at Sh40 per pack but were bought at Sh66.50 during the Covid-19 period while alcohol-based sanitiser was initially planned at Sh313 and purchased at Sh495,” PPRA said.
Parliament is investigating the procurement of Covid-19 related items worth Sh7.8 billion that Kemsa procured at inflated costs.