Three at Kemri sent home in misuse of funds probe

Move meant to pave the way for investigations into claims three officials registered a parallel organisation.

Friday February 19 2016

Kenya Medical Research Institute Head Office in Nairobi. I was saddened that 39 children in Nakuru and Baringo counties may have died from suspected influenza-like illness. If tests being undertaken by Kemri confirm it, there will be cause for alarm. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Kenya Medical Research Institute Head Office in Nairobi. I was saddened that 39 children in Nakuru and Baringo counties may have died from suspected influenza-like illness. If tests being undertaken by Kemri confirm it, there will be cause for alarm. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By ANGELA OKETCH
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Top officials of the Kenya Medical Research Institute, who were accused of registering a parallel organisation, have been sent on leave to allow investigations into alleged misuse of funds.

The officials suspended by the Kemri board of management are chief executive Solomon Mpoke, finance and administration manager Linah Boit and human resources assistant director Anne Wang’ombe.

The three were accused of setting up a parallel non-governmental organisation, which competed with the institute for donor funds.

The allegations are being investigated by the National Assembly’s health committee. The team last week interrogated senior Kemri officers over the origin and source of funding of the organisation.

“The substantive director, Kemri, and two senior management staff are currently on compulsory so that investigations can be carried out on various aspects of management, including those discussed at the meeting,” Kemri acting director Gerald Mkoji said in a statement.

RCTP FACES

In the statement, Mr Mkoji says the organisation, RCTP Faces, was formed without the institute’s involvement.

“It is incorrect to state or even insinuate that Kemri signed a memorandum of understanding with Faces. We did not approve the memorandum because we noted that there was a conflict of interest,” he said.

While appearing before the health committee last week, Mr Mpoke said the organisation was set up because donors prefer channelling their funds through non-governmental organisations.

But this was worrying, according to Mr Mpoke.

“Kemri has been concerned about the flow of funds. If we have other agencies running after the same funds as we are, this cannot be good for Kemri,” said Mr Mpoke.

He said Kemri had been receiving money from projects that were initiated before the organisation was set up.

When contacted, Faces board chairperson Dorothy Mbori denied claims that they were competing for funding with the institute.

Prof Mbori said the work carried out by the NGO was complementary to that of the institute.

“No funds have been diverted from Kemri to the NGO since its inception. No government or donor funds have been lost, misappropriated or diverted. The audited reports are available for scrutiny,” she said.

“The Kemri staff who founded the NGO resigned many years ago and a vibrant board of directors is in charge.”

Faces has more than 160,000  HIV-positive people under its care in Migori, Homa Bay, Kisumu and Nairobi counties.

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