The Health ministry's decision to lease Sh38 billion medical equipment for the counties four years ago continues to haunt the government with queries over its transparency. It is turning out to have been a costly mistake as the benefits are not evident. It is a huge financial burden thrust on the counties.
It is quite sickening that some of the expensive machines are just gathering dust in some hospitals. And the reason is that the rush to procure equipment did not come with a cogent programme to build capacity for usage.
So, the counties are paying through the nose for what they never asked for, and worse, have no say on. But, ironically, according to the Auditor-General's report, the suppliers have never been paid though the money is deducted from allocations to the counties.
Each county initially paid Sh95 million per year, which was later increased to Sh200 million.
The 47 counties are, therefore, forking out a princely Sh9.4 billion a year, up from Sh4.5 billion, when the programme started in 2015. So where does this money go? This raises questions as to the motive.
The government says that equipping select public hospitals with modern equipment was meant to bring specialised treatment of cancer, diabetes and other serious illnesses closer to the people. Nobody would have a quarrel with that.
In this package were kidney dialysis machines, X-ray and theatre equipment, and intensive care units. But there are doubts on this Managed Equipment Scheme (MES).
Health is a devolved function and, therefore, the governors are justified to feel upset that a key project was done without their involvement.
This latest row over the leased equipment confirms the need to rethink the running of this key portfolio.