Jama grilled over pending Kemsa debt, procuring drugs elsewhere

Friday, May 17th, 2024 04:18 | By
Garissa Governor Nathif Jama when he appeared before members of the National Cohesion of the Senate yesterday. PHOTO/Print
Garissa Governor Nathif Jama when he appeared before members of the National Cohesion of the Senate yesterday. PHOTO/Print

A Senate committee has taken Garissa Governor Nathif Jama to task on why his administration has engaged an alternative medical supplier despite owing Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) Sh115 million.

This is after the Senate Health Committee chaired by Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu) established that Garissa has been procuring its drugs from the faith-based Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies (MEDS).

Jama told the committee that not all drugs are procured through KEMSA, adding that they only procure some essential drugs from MEDS if the State agency does not have such drugs.

However, the senators were not convinced by the explanation, saying MEDs supplies drugs at exorbitant prices compared to Kemsa.

“MEDS supplies drugs at exorbitant prices compared to Kemsa. Why would you choose to procure drugs from MEDS and not Kemsa?” posed Mandago.

Ledama Olekina (Narok) while taking a queue from Mandago questioned why the Northern County government made arrangements with MEDs to procure drugs from them and is ready to pay them Sh10 million rather than paying debts owed to Kemsa.

“You cannot run away from ordering from Kemsa because of the debt. This committee directed that counties must clear all Kemsa debts within 30 days to be supplied by the agency,” said the Narok lawmaker.

Raphael Chimera (nominated) sought the governor’s response on why the county has a budget of Sh3billion in the Health department but is unable to clear a paltry Sh115million debt.

“Why do you have an under-the-table arrangement with MEDS yet Kemsa is way cheaper? This is a clear case of pilfering county resources. Can we conclude that you are involved in monkey business in Garissa?” posed Chimera.

In his response, Governor Jama explained that his administration only turns to Kemsa in instances where they experience a low fill rate from the agency, adding that the supplies required by their health facilities are not always available at Kemsa leading to a demand versus supply disparity.

“The county government has made an alternative arrangement with MEDs and currently, the health facilities have adequate stock of essential drugs and medical supplies.

Government agency

According to Jama, the devolved unit signed a deal with MEDs in January 2024 to supply between 50 and 60 per cent of the county’s needs. “We first make an order to Kemsa who then tells us what they can supply, then what they don’t have is what we procure from MEDs. We approached MEDs to get medicine that Kemsa lacks with full knowledge of the government agency. As a responsible county government we must take measures to bridge the deficit,” said Jama.

However, Senator Olekina accused the county government of deliberately running away from Kemsa to avoid clearing their debt.

“There is no issue of demand and supply disparity. If you had been paying Kemsa, they would be supplying you with medicine,” he said.

Samson Cherargei (Nandi) joined in, saying the county government turned to MEDs in order to evade clearing Kemsa debts, insisting that Kemsa has all the pharmaceuticals and non-pharmaceuticals needed. “What proof do you have that Kemsa does not have the needed pharmaceuticals and non-pharmaceuticals to supply you?” he posed.

In his response, the Governor charged that all of their 86 health facilities have an account with Kemsa and only Sh46million of the Sh115million debt is above 90 days.

“We agree to clear the debt by next month for a new order in July,” said the second-term county chief.

Jama told the Jackson Mandago-led committee that Garissa County Level 5 Teaching and Referral Hospital accounts for the lion’s share of the debt at Sh32.6 million while Sh82.7 million is owed by rural health facilities.

“We inherited huge pending bills from the previous administration but we have entered into a repayment plan with Kemsa and we are now in their good books,” said the governor.

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