- The counties have consistently blamed their failure to pay Kemsa on the National Treasury's delay to disburse money to the devolved units.
- It is a question of misplaced priorities — counties prioritise the funding of projects such as official residences at the expense of essential services to the public.
Millions of Kenyans are at risk of missing out on essential drugs in public hospitals due to the failure by county governments to service a Sh1.1 billion debt they owe the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa).
Those at greatest risk are residents of 14 counties, whose debts run into tens and hundreds of millions of shillings for unpaid deliveries accrued over time.
Leading in the category of counties which owe Kemsa huge amounts of money are Nairobi (Sh234 million), Narok (Sh104 million), Homa Bay (Sh81 million), Kilifi (Sh78 million), Kiambu (Sh76 million), Migori (Sh58 million) and Machakos (Sh50 million).
County governments that have failed to service their debts over the last three months include Bungoma (Sh25 million), Busia (Sh8 million), Homa Bay, Kericho (Sh26 million), Kiambu, Kilifi, Kisumu (Sh35 million), Machakos, Migori, Mombasa (Sh17 million), Murang’a (Sh46 million), Nairobi, Narok, Taita Taveta (Sh49 million) and Trans Nzoia (Sh41million).
Kemsa has since suspended Governor Samuel Tunai’s Narok County for failing to demonstrate any commitment to clear the debts.
The counties have consistently blamed their failure to pay Kemsa on the National Treasury's delay to disburse money to the devolved units.
What is clear, however, is that in many instances, it is a question of misplaced priorities — counties prioritise the funding of projects such as official residences at the expense of essential services to the public.
This has left many county hospitals undersupplied with medicines, including those used to manage HIV.
In this year's budget, Kilifi County has set aside Sh214 million for the construction of a deputy governor’s official residence while it has also allocated Sh200 million for the construction of the Speaker’s residence.
Nairobi has allocated Sh130 million for the Speaker’s residence.
County governments that have allocated exorbitant amounts towards the construction of county assembly offices include Kilifi (Sh500 million), Nairobi (Sh400 million) and Bungoma (Sh400 million).
These are among the devolved governments that owe Kemsa large sums.
There are some counties that did not owe the medicine supplies agency anything as at August 3, meaning that their residents will continue enjoying the supply of essential drugs.
These include Elgeyo Marakwet, Embu, Isiolo, Kajiado, Kakamega, Kirinyaga, Kisii, Kitui, Mandera, Marsabit, Makueni, Wajir and West Pokot.
Residents of Bomet (Sh2.7m), Kwale (Sh160,000) and Laikipia (Sh100,000) can also sit pretty as their respective county governments have consistently serviced their debts and owed Kemsa negligible amounts as at August 3.
Nairobi residents may also get some reprieve after the county government reached an agreement with the agency.
“We have since had an agreement with Nairobi County and they will be paying Sh30 million every month to reduce the amount,” Kemsa CEO Jonah Mwangi said.