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EDITORIAL: Report on Kemsa calls for thorough shake-up

by kenya-tribune

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The latest audit report on the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency is alarming. Its drug management system and financial expenditure are horrible.

In the financial year ending June 2017, Kemsa kept in its stores expired medicines worth Sh100 million. It also had more than Sh350 million in unspent cash meant for drugs.

Here are two sets of paradoxes. First, the agency that is responsible for procuring and distributing drugs has no shame keeping expired medicines, the danger notwithstanding. It also knows all too well the perennial drug shortage in the public health facilities.

How, then, could it keep such a consignment in its stores when it should have distributed the drugs to the facilities on time? Where will it take the consignment? And at what cost? This is a complete waste of public resources.

The second paradox is that although it understands that health facilities require drugs, Kemsa does not spend the cash allocated for medicines. How does it organise its work plan? What is the plan for procurements?

This is not the first time we have had such appalling reports on the agency. Not long ago, it had to burn a huge consignment of expired drugs that had been withdrawn from counties and which had cost the taxpayers a lot of money.

Something is awfully wrong at Kemsa and the Ministry of Health and the various oversight agencies ought to take a special interest in the goings-on at the agency.

Access to affordable healthcare is predicated on proper planning and coordination. It starts with disease prevention, well-equipped clinics with qualified medical professionals, proper diagnosis of diseases, accurate prescriptions and availability of medicines. Any gap along the chain could be catastrophic.

We are cognisant of the variables at play. Among these is the inability of counties to buy and pay for drugs from Kemsa due to their perennial financial difficulties.

At one point, the agency even stopped supplying drugs to the counties because they had defaulted in payment for supplies.

But in this day and age, when firms operate modern procurement practices — where just-on-time supply is the norm — why can’t Kemsa organise itself properly to do exactly that to avoid holding unnecessary stocks?

The reason Kemsa was set up was to consolidate the procurement of medical supplies and enable the government to benefit from economies of scale and as well as streamline stock distribution. The principle is valid, but its implementation is proving cumbersome, hence calling to question its continued viability.

This is a sensitive process that must be executed judiciously. Kemsa should review and streamline its processes henceforth.

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