Inside the failure by the Health Ministry to curb the Rising Covid-19 Cases

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe Addressing the media as Acting DG Dr Patrick Amoth looks on.

When health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe came to power, Kenyans quickly praised him with majority saying his appointment at the ministry of health came at the right time. Others especially from Mount Kenya wanted him to be propped up as a possible successor of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Inside his no nonsense look on the mainstream media as his PR firm, Tell-Em, advised, lies a man who was rejected by “Wanjiku”, voters, twice due to poor performance.

Kagwe served as Member of Parliament for Mukurweini Constituency, Nyeri Kenya between 2002 and 2007 before the people of Mukurweini denied him a re-election in 2007-2013 owing to his dismal performance. And that’s how Kabando Wa Kabando, who was recently chased away by cartels at a prestigious parastatal, replaced him as MP.

Mutahi Kagwe resurfaced again in 2013 as Nyeri senator, a position he served in till 2017 before he was rejected again on the ballot when he tried his hands on governorship. Few remember that the now ‘powerful’ Cabinet Secretary only garnered 5, 144 votes in the gubernatorial race.

A powerful statement to how people viewed him.

To outsiders, Kagwe left a rich legacy as an “energetic and results-oriented Cabinet Minister for Information and Communication” but to insiders, Kagwe has no development track record as Member of Parliament and as a senator having failed to effectively oversight the late Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua. In fact, it was during his tenure that many funds especially in the county were misappropriated due to his lackluster leadership.

A little bird familiar with the going-ons in the region was heard saying that it was Mutahi Kagwe who delayed the completion of Former President Mwai Kibaki’s stalled projects since he kept on postponing President Uhuru’s visit to those particular projects citing either lack of enough time or that it was too early to lobby for completion of such projects. Do you remember Rirung’u stadium in Nyeri county? It stalled. It took the intervention of the new Nyeri Leadership to meet and ask President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene and to their surprise, their wishes were granted and work resumed in June this year.

His dismal performance as elected leader has seemingly followed him to the ministry where his colleagues are accusing him of highhandedness with little grasp of health matters. If the death toll resulting from Covid-19 cases in Kenya rising to 364 and the total number of positive cases now standing at 21,363 out of the 310,330 samples as of August 1, 2020 is not telling enough that something is terribly wrong at the ministry of health, then you probably need prayers.

Most of the victims of Covid-19 pandemic are healthcare workers. In Nyeri, where CS Kagwe comes from, a bigger percentage of Covid-19 cases are healthcare providers but the CS still behaves normally.

It’s sad that medical personnel dealing directly with the Covid-19 and those manning Kenya’s health facilities still continue going without personal protective equipment at times. And if that wasn’t the case then Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) acting Secretary-General Dr. Chibanzi Mwachonda who has been vocal in championing for the rights of, adequate and quality Personal Protective Equipment gears (PPEs) for healthcare workers would have not contracted the disease. There are so many health-care providers who contracted Covid-19 due to lack of adequate and quality PPEs. We have witnessed deaths of such workers in the country.

With his Bachelor of Commerce – Insurance option- degree, his little understanding on health matters is understandable. Anyone who specializes in commerce will tell you that Insurance option comes third after finance and accounting options respectively.

Most statements coming from Kagwe are more of PR driven than to salvage this disease. Kenyans still remember some of his quotes like “If we continue to behave normally, this disease will treat us abnormally” but nothing beyond that. People still die at alarming rate. One blogger even commented saying, in Kenya, it’s now one death every hour.

It’s under Kagwe’s regime that that testing Covid-19 disease is still costing arm and leg in public facilities, it’s under his tenure that PPEs and other equipment donated to Kenya by Jack Ma and other donors were stolen and sold to the state and nothing happened. It’s under his watch that KEMSA is as incompetent as ever, it’s under his leadership that his ministry opted to hire ambulances, buy mandazi and tea at the expense of ICU facilities, it’s under this man where healthcare providers are left on their own to survive.

See the breakdown;

If you look at the budget you’ll realize that Ksh70 million was spent on communication. Though there were claims that all the advertisements were done by Kagwe’s firm, a claim he distanced himself with saying he has never done business with the government.

Just when Mutahi Kagwe was assuring the public that he was after the cartel, some suspects are reported to have posed as senior Ministry of Health officials and lured Eastleigh businessman Ibrahim Adan into handing over 20,000 boxes of hand gloves, 1,000 pieces of non-contact infrared thermometers and 579 boxes of face masks worth Sh37 million.

The investigation around it stopped and authorities have remained tight-lipped over the theft of medical equipment to date.

Also, billions have been reported to have been deposited in offshore accounts.

Don’t forget that Kagwe is the same man who swore during his oath of office to “infuse professionalism in the health sector.” Adding that, “There will be resistance but this is not a place where one goes to win a popular contest, but where one goes to execute a function.” He is yet to deliver on this promise save for the PR.

To make matters worse, his PS, Susan Mochache, who should be closing the gap for him has lost trust with the state irreparably and is likely to be replaced in the next reshuffling. His two CASs with professional background on health related courses are allegedly not working in harmony with him as it is always his way or the highway.

It’s only in Kenya where before you’re fired, the ‘system’ leaks at least one of your scandals or a number of them. One such criterion was used on Susan Mochache few weeks ago when a local publication linked her to scandals worth millions at the ministry.

In the publication, they alleged that the above PS made a killing during the Covid-19 pandemic through dubious deals. They further claimed that she is currently buying a house in a foreign country just in case the scandal breaks out and she needs somewhere to run to. That her growing appetite for more money has seen her instigate a leadership crisis at a state corporation, sponsoring negative articles in some of the media outlets after the parastatal chief refused to play ball on her corrupt proposals.

However, truth is, there a lot of corruption at Afya House and it looks like Mutahi Kagwe is the new head of that cartel, after being rapped. In a brief that appeared in a local newspaper, the CS is reported to have been ‘summoned by a prominent businessman, where he was given a dress-down’. It is also reported that he promised to back down on his anti-corruption stance.

Sources claim Mr Kagwe does not want to hear anything like health reforms and that he has allegedly sided with governors to ensure health remains devolved.

One of the biggest wins in the first version of BBI was the proposal to create a Health Service Commission, HSC, just like that of Teachers Service Commission, TSC, to cater for the Human resource aspect in the Health sector.

This was meant to ensure equitable posting of doctors, nurse and other healthcare workers across the country; and also iron out common healthcare challenges like training and bridging the doctor to patient ratio thus solving the perennial problem of strikes in the counties and further reduce the burden on the counties in paying salaries to health workers releasing more funds for infrastructure and Medicine. But now Mr Anybody Can Gerrit does not want to hear of such. When you’re waiting to see health reforms under Kagwe then be ready to wait longer.

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