Senior officials at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) could soon be guests of the state over alleged malpractices in the procurement of staff medical cover that lasted only for six months before it was unceremoniously suspended.
Further, KEMRI senior managers are said to have irregularly inflated the tender sum by Sh43million from the approved Sh115million budget to Sh158.1million as per the contract issued to M/S Madison Insurance vide contract number KEMRI/HQ/014/2020-2021.
Interestingly, despite the glaring variance of the contract value upwards by Sh43million, KEMRI staff members were only able to utilize the inpatient and outpatient medical cover services for a record six months before the cover was suspended controversially.
The approval was done without the nod from the Ministry of Health on whether the extra monies were budgeted for.
The cover was to encompass both inpatient and outpatient insurance cover for the financial year 2020-2021.
According to investigations by The Informer Media Group, officials from Procurement and Finance departments at the national research body are said to be persons of interest in the probe among them the acting Director, Corporate Service Anthony Stephen Wachira.
Wachira also served as the Deputy Director, Finance.
When contacted for comment, Wachira said that: “I have seen this but I have no response since I am not aware of the above.” Wachira said through a short text message.
The over 1,000 KEMRI started getting the services provided by Madison Insurance in October 2020 but suspended on March 1, 2021 after KEMRI management wrote to staff members notifying them that the cover by Madison had been suspended.
“The management is in consultation with the insurer to resolve the issue. In the meantime, staff who need medical attention are advised to visit a facility of their choice for treatment at their own cost and subsequently claim reimbursement for the medical cost incurred. The claim should be accompanied by a copy of diagnosis, prescription and receipts submitted through the nearest KEMRI Centre.” The notice read in part at a time the frontline workers were battling the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the time, Professor Yeri Kombe was serving as the institution’s Director General.
However, the suspension was reinstated a week later only for it to done away with again on April 23, 2021.
Before Madison Insurance was on boarded as the service provider, they were covered by the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF).
Attempts by workers through their labour unions to have NHIF retained were thwarted.
On behalf of its members, the Union of Kenya Civil Servants (UKCS) said they were never consulted and that they had never complained about NHIF.
Since 2016, the management of Kemri contracted the National Health Insurance Fund to administer a comprehensive medical cover to its employees at a cost of Sh115 million annually, according to the institute’s approved budget for medical insurance for the 2020/2021 financial year.
After failing to convince the management to retain NHIF as the scheme administrator, union leaders on behalf of their members wrote a petition to the then Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe on August 24, 2020 to bar officials from contracting a private insurer.
“We wish to appeal to you to intervene to ensure that KEMRI does not contract a private insurer to offer medical services. Kindly note that the government through the Ministry of State for Public Service and Gender has signed a contract with NHIF to offer comprehensive cover to civil servants,” they wrote in the petition.
However, the union did not get any reaction from the CS and KEMRI advertised for the tender on July 20, 2020.
“The head of procurement function and the accounting officer failed to safeguard the taxpayers’ money in this particular procurement which resulted in a loss of Sh43 millions of taxpayers’ money. The two public officers had a duty within the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, 2015 to save taxpayers money but they did not.” A petition signed by Union of Kenya Civil Servants Vice Chairman Benjamin Nyaga read in part.
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