A parliamentary committee was yesterday informed that a Kenyan working in the Middle East won a Sh225 million tender to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa).
Meldian Enterprise Ltd director Joel Ndegwa told the National Assembly Public Investments Committee that he was in Iraq when he saw an opportunity to supply suits, gloves, masks, goggles and shoes to Kemsa.
Mr Ndegwa said he is employed by an aid organisation called IMMAP as an information officer.
He added that he would be abroad for four weeks before jetting into the country for a week on work-related matters.
Called his wife
According to Mr Ndegwa, he saw the opportunity in December 2019 while in Iraq and called his wife Lydia Kariuki who is co-director of the company to start making arrangements for the tender.
Mr Ndegwa said his wife owns 70 per cent of the company’s shares.
“Based on what was happening in Iraq and other countries, I knew it would it get to Kenya. I did my research on who was supplying what and at what price,” he said.
“I talked to my wife and we sent our employee Margaret Murage to Kemsa. She was directed to the procurement department.”
He added that Ms Murage went to Kemsa offices on a Friday and had already been awarded the tender to supply 30,000 PPE by Tuesday of the following week.
Mr Ndegwa told the lawmakers that he has been paid Sh117 million by Kemsa to date.
“No bidding was needed. It was a direct procurement,” he told the Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir-led team.
After winning the tender, Mr Ndegwa said he faced another problem since he did not have money.
The PPE were needed as quickly as possible as it was an emergency.
He told the committee that he borrowed from friends and took loans from Isortery and Elem, two companies operating on Mombasa and Ngong roads in Nairobi respectively.
Did not import PPE
Mr Ndegwa said he did not import the PPE but bought them from the two companies.
The lawmakers, however, demanded to know from Mr Ndegwa how he was able to tell by December 2019 that coronavirus would hit Kenya in March the following year, thereby positioning himself to supply the kits to Kemsa.
“The committee is talking to a prophet who knew that Covid-19 was going to hit Kenya and immediately sent Ms Murage to Kemsa to get the tender,” Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang told Mr Ndegwa sarcastically.
“Your worker just walked into Kemsa offices and found tenders being given. She also got one.”
Mr Ndegwa said he is a smart businessman who takes chances.
“I knew it was going to hit Kenya. I saw it, based on where I was. I saw an opportunity. What is wrong with that?” he asked.
“If I had connections, I would have received all my money.”
Nairobi Woman Representative Esther Passaris said Mr Ndegwa may not have supplied anything to Kemsa.
“How could a man in Iraq connect with firms in Kenya and work with Kemsa?” she asked.