National Assembly Health Committee vice chairman and Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny. He has said Parliament will summon Ministry of Health officials over the controversial expiry of a consignment of vaccines in a warehouse at the JKIA.
By Angela Oketch
Among those to be questioned are officials who served at the ministry at the time of the shipment in 2017 and 2018. Details of the expired vaccines came after the Nation obtained correspondence between the state agencies on the destruction of the vaccines.
Parliament is planning to summon Ministry of Health officials over the 6.1 tonnes expired drugs scandal. The leadership of the National Assembly and the Senate Health Committees said will be their first agenda when the Houses resume sitting on February 9. They said it was in public interest to find out how vaccines worth Sh180 million donated to help protect women and children from five deadly diseases expired and who was to blame.
Among those to be questioned are officials who served at the ministry at the time of the shipment in 2017 and 2018. The National Assembly Departmental Committee on Health led by vice chair Joshua Kutuny said the corruption that is entrenched in the Health ministry has to be stopped.
“We need to know whether the carelessness was from the ministry or the firm tasked with shipping the vaccine. If the so-called firm was not paid after delivery, was there no contract signed to specify on how the payment was going to be done?” Mr Kutuny posed. If the ministry said it was to pay after all the rightful documents were handed over, there was need to find out if this was clearly stipulated in the agreement.
“This is a matter of great concern. If 6.1 tonnes of highly needed vaccines can go to waste because of carelessness then someone has to take responsibility,” said Senate Health Committee chairperson, Michael Mbitho. Narok Senator Ledama Olekina told the Nation that the Ministry of Health has their priorities mixed up. Mr Opiyo Wandayi, chairman of the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC), questioned why the Swiss port is rushing to destroy the expired vaccines now yet they have been in their warehouse for three years.
Not cleared for entry
For three years, 2,280,000 doses of pentavalent vaccine worth Sh180 million that came in 2017 wasted away at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport Swissport storage. Apparently, shipping fees was never paid to Siginon Group Limited, contracted by the Ministry of Health to handle the clearance of the consignment. According to the ministry, the firm did not honour its part of the deal.
The ministry told the Nation that, according to the clearance contract, the agent should have cleared the vaccines from the landing sheds, including payment of all third-party charges. It should also have delivered the drugs to the Ministry of Health’s Central Vaccines Depots, and then issued an invoice for payment. However, the vaccines were not cleared for entry into the country because the shipping agency demanded to be paid before releasing the consignment.
Details of the expired vaccines came after the Nation obtained correspondence between the state agencies on the destruction of the vaccines. No one, including the state agencies, wants to take blame with some of the senior officials at the ministry blaming former health Principal Secretary Peter Tum. “The clearing agent was not able to honour the contract and subsequently clear the vaccines from the Swissport handling shed, with subsequent loss of shelf life and expiry of the vaccines, before arrival,” says a statement from the Ministry of Health.
The ministry blamed Siginon for variations in and application of demurrage costs constraining contract execution. Subsequently, the vaccine held at the Swissport terminal had its shelf life end in April 2018, by which time the vaccine had lost viability, six months to the expiry date of October 2018. The pentavalent vaccines donated by the Serum Institute India prevents haemophilus influenza type B (the bacteria that causes meningitis, pneumonia and otitis media – ear infection), Diptheria, whooping cough, hepatitis B, tetanus and other ailments.
Even as the Swissport seeks approval to destroy the drugs, there is yet another war between Siginon and the ministry on who is going to foot the cost and whether the company will accept the vaccines to be destroyed before the shipment fee is paid. For a consignment to be destroyed, the parties responsible have to foot the cost of destruction. Roughly, it costs Sh30 per kilogramme.
Source: Daily Nation