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Solve health equipment dispute once and for all



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The controversy over the leased medical equipment supplied to counties three years ago should be resolved urgently.

Counties are spending incredibly huge sums of money to pay for the equipment, some of which is not in use.

Already, counties are facing serious financial crises with declined subventions from the National Treasury, which cash is never disbursed on time. They cannot bear more burden.

In view of the fact that health services were devolved under the current Constitution, the national government set out to secure medical equipment for them through bulk procurement — which is, arguably, cost-effective and, hence, justifiable.

The equipment was obtained on lease and the counties were not consulted over their requirements or apprised of the cost implications.

The counties raised serious objections. For one, they declared that they did not need some of the equipment.

It was not a priority, as most counties were literally struggling to provide basic healthcare and required essential equipment, not the high-end ones.

Worse, some counties did not have the infrastructure, including power supply, or the requisite human resource. Not surprisingly, the equipment has lain idle in some counties.

But the more profound challenge is the recent increase of the cost of repayment from Sh97 million to Sh200 million a month, making the deal extremely costly and unsustainable.

Again, the counties were never consulted. In effect, they have found themselves struggling to pay for what they did not ask for and at a rate determined elsewhere.

Simply put, counties have been thrust into financial distress due to unilateral decisions by other people.

We are now informed that the governors have resolved to present the matter to an inter-governmental committee chaired by Deputy President William Ruto to have it resolved. That is critical.

It is injudicious to continue with the scheme without clarifying pertinent issues. Importantly, the government ought not to get into such an arrangement again — imposing a project on counties and compelling them to pay huge costs without involving them.

Managing health services remains a major challenge to counties. The various counties are at different levels of development and, hence, have unique requirements.

So, it is unwise to lump all of them together and force them into a deal that does not benefit them.

At any rate, the whole question of devolution is independence; letting people make decisions on matters that concern them. This matter keeps recurring and, with the planned meeting, it should be resolved once and for all.