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WEEKEND PROFILE: Mwangi faces revolving door of jinxed NHIF corner office




Suspended National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) CEO Geoffrey Gitau Mwangi. NMG PHOTO 

The suspension of the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) CEO, Geoffrey Mwangi on Wednesday rekindled memories of a jinxed corner office at the fund where successive holders have departed under stormy circumstances.

The fund’s board sent Mr Mwangi and acting Finance director Wilbert Kurgat on compulsory leave, as investigations into the suspected loss of cash at the insurer continued.

This was a double blow for the former altar boy who had spent a better part of the week fighting for his freedom in court having cooled his heels in police cells for five days after his arrest last week.

But as he walked away from police cells on Wednesday after being granted cash bail, Mr Mwangi was greeted by a compulsory leave order from his employer.

The duo has pleaded not guilty to the charges of obstructing investigations into the alleged loss of cash at the national insurer.

Mr Mwangi, who is considered a media-savvy, now stares at the possibility of leaving the post unceremoniously just like what befell Adan A. Adan, Richard Kerich and Simeon ole Kirgotty.

Mr Mwangi was appointed the NHIF boss in February 2016, after Simeon ole Kirgotty’s term expired.

At the time of his appointment, Mr Mwangi was the fund’s finance and investments manager.

But the exit of Mr Kirgotty too had its share of drama. Several MPs from the Maasailand protested the failure to renew his contract and termed Mr Kirgotty’s replacement as a “betrayal” of the community.

They read political mischief in Mr Kirgotty’s exit from NHIF.

Mr Kirgotty was later in November 2016 appointed devolution secretary in the ministry of Devolution and Planning, months after he left the NHIF.

Mr Kirgotty’s predecessor at the NHIF, Adan, too had an unhappy ending at the insurer after he was unceremoniously recalled to the Health ministry, having barely served for two months.

Then Medical Services minister Anyang’ Nyong’o sacked Mr Adan from the NHIF position on July 31,2012, not long after then-President Mwai Kibaki had appointed him in May to lead a caretaker board for three months following a scandal that rocked the implementation of a Sh4.3 billion civil servants’ health scheme. The caretakers’ term was scheduled to end on August 8, 2012.

The scandal had claimed the scalp of Mr Adan’s predecessor, Mr Kerich, and members of the board that were serving at the NHIF at the time.

Mr Kerich and two other managers — Fadhili Marwa Chacha and David Chingi were later in 2013 charged in court with conspiring to defraud the fund of Sh96.5 million through a contract with Clinix Healthcare Limited to provide healthcare for civil servants and disciplined forces between January and March 2012.

They were also charged with abuse of office and failing to comply with procurement laws.

The three former managers were charged together with two directors of Clinix Healthcare Limited Toddy Madahana and Anthony Kalathir Chacko.

They were, however, all acquitted in November last year after the prosecution failed to prove fraud charges against them.

Senior Principal Magistrate Martha Mutuku ruled that prosecutors had failed to prove conspiracy charges against Mr Kerich and the two managers.

She said there was no audit to prove any loss of money.

The magistrate also dismissed charges of failing to comply with procurement laws.

Clinix and its directors were also acquitted after the court found that no member of NHIF testified in court that the facility did not have the capacity as alleged.

But it is now Mr Mwangi’s turn to taste what his predecessors had faced, although the nature of the situation has been different.

For Mr Mwangi, he is on forced leave even before the investigations into alleged malpractices are complete after he was charged with obstructing justice.

A private text message by Mr Mwangi to the chief finance director, Kurgat, helped the police to press charges against the two for obstructing corruption investigations, court documents reveal.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations disclosed in court papers that it obtained a text from Mr Mwangi directing Mr Kurgat not to share documents demanded by the investigators.

The prosecution says the two denied officers access to documents — payment vouchers and other books — that were deemed important to the investigation relating to payment of millions of shillings to Webtribe Ltd — a firm dealing in online payments.

This was enough to give him a forced rest.

It remains to be seen if he will survive the storm.