Kemsa board sent home after US mounts pressure for reforms

The government has appointed Mary Chao Mwadime as the chairperson of the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority board just days after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called for reforms in the crisis saddled agency.

In a Gazette notice dated April 28, President Uhuru Kenyatta revoked the appointment of Kembi Gitura as Kemsa board chairperson, a change of guard expected to take effect April 30.

In the same breadth, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe appointed Capt. (Rtd) Lawrence Wahome, Robert Nyarango, Linton Nyaga Kinyua, and Terry Kiunge Ramadhani to serve as members of Kemsa board for a period of three years, starting April 30.

Last month, MPs raised concerns over Mr Gitura’s appointment as the chairman of the Communications Regulatory Authority, saying the move was in bad taste considering the ongoing graft investigation in Kemsa over the spending of KES7.8 billion in controversial procurement of Covid-19 supplies.

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Speaking during a virtual roundtable with Kenya and Nigerian journalists on April 27, US Secretary of State Anthony J Blinken called for reforms in Kemsa.

“We have had an issue with Kemsa, the institution responsible for the distribution, and as you know very well, concerns in particular about corruption that I know the government is working to reform. We have an obligation to our own taxpayers when we’re spending their money to do it in a way that is accountable and fully transparent,” said Mr Blinken.

USAid has refused to release an ARVs consignment, demanding that a private American firm, Chemonics International, be picked to distribute the drugs.

According to Mr Blinken, USAid’s assistance to people living with HIV will continue in an accountable and transparent atmosphere.

Read also: Kagwe – Kenya needs HIV drugs’ budget to cut reliance on donors

“And so I think what we’re – what we talked about today was making sure that as Kemsa was being reformed, nothing fell through the cracks, that we had the ability together to make sure that our assistance continued uninterrupted, so that people in need of what we’re providing didn’t go without it. And I think that we’re going to work very closely together to make sure that happens,” Mr Blinken added.

Currently, the government is investigating claims that Kemsa released banned ARV drugs to the people living with HIV.

According to the national empowerment network of people living with HIV/Aids and other organizations, the drugs flagged off were old stock donated by the Global Fund under The US President’s emergency plan for Aids relief, which had recently been phased out due to adverse side effects on patients.

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