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Senate summons Sicily Kariuki over medical equipment leasing deal

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By IBRAHIM ORUKO
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Senators have waded into the Sh38 billion medical equipment leasing scheme after claims emerged that the deal, signed in 2015, is a secret arrangement between the national government and the suppliers.

Angry senators on Wednesday raised endless questions about the deal, describing it as a scandal of monumental proportions, and ordered Health CS Sicily Kariuki to appear before a House panel on Tuesday next week to shed light on the status of the equipment and the nature of the lease.

The lawmakers were particularly angered by reports that the suppliers have arbitrarily increased the monthly payments for the equipment from Sh4.5 billion, as agreed in 2015, to Sh9 billion, which means that every county will have to pay Sh200 million annually, from the Sh97.7 million previously agreed.

The senators want the CS to explain how the monthly payment rose and why the instruments of the agreement have never been deposited with the Senate as required by law since it was signed three years ago.

They also want her to explain why the Senate was excluded from the deal and the management of the universal healthcare programme.

Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki issued the orders compelling the CS to appear before its committee after Health Committee chairman Michael Mbito complained about frustration by the ministry, which he said had ignored the role of the Senate when it signed the agreement, and also in the impending rollout of universal healthcare.

“There is a tendency by some functionaries in the Executive to think that the other arms of the government are subservient.

They think the other arms of government exist at the mercy of the Executive,” Prof Kindiki said, in relation to a claim by the committee that Ms Kariuki had refused to appear before it to discuss the matter.

He ordered the CS to appear before the panel with all documents related to the scheme, and, if necessary, an addendum detailing how the annual contribution skyrocketed. The multibillion-shilling plan was launched in February 2015 to meet the country’s need for affordable specialised healthcare.

It came with the promise of bringing specialised healthcare services closer to the people.

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Last week, the Council of Governors (CoG) complained that although funds for leasing of the equipment are directly debited from their budgets, none of the 47 governors knows where the money goes.

Mr Mbito had said the CS had taken his committee for a ride after promising to involve the Senate in the matter, only to change her mind soon after.

Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen said the agreement on the scheme must be deposited in the House to give the legislators the power to oversee the deal, in line with its constitutional mandate.

Mr Murkomen faulted the governors for having appended their signature to the deal, only to turn around and start regretting, noting that they had abetted crime.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior said the cost of leasing is equal to buying the equipment, and noted that there are three documents related to the deal that the CS must table to the committee for perusal so as to help the committee get to the bottom of the matter.

“The matter is too hot. Only governor refused to sign. The rest of governors signed under duress. This is a scandal because what will be used to pay the leasing scheme is equal to buying the equipment,” he said.

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula said the agreement was faulty because it included leasing disposable items such as gloves and “other small things like hand towels”.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior said the cost of leasing is equal to buying the equipment, and noted that there are three documents related to the deal that the CS must table to the committee for perusal so as to help the committee get to the bottom of the matter.

“The matter is too hot. Only governor refused to sign. The rest of governors signed under duress. This is a scandal because what will be used to pay the leasing scheme is equal to buying the equipment,” he said.

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula said the agreement was faulty because it included leasing disposable items such as gloves and “other small things like hand towels”.

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