A go-down in Thika that sold hides and skins changed business to become one of the major supplier of masks delivered to the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa), a parliamentary committee heard on Monday.

The committee also heard how within 24 hours Caresha Healthcare Solutions walked away with a Sh95 million tender to supply 21,000 boxes of 50 pack masks.

The National Assembly’s Public Investment Committee (PIC) investigating the Sh7.8 billion Kemsa scandal was told the go down owned by a Chinese only identified as Paul imported masks and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) even before Covid-19 hit Kenya.

The Director of Villa surgicals Ltd, Nehema Mugambi, told MPs that her firm and most companies she did not name got their masks at the Chinese company identified as Xiangnan industrial limited in Thika.

Ms Mugambi said the company initially was a go down for hides and skin but it later switched to supplying masks.

“A fellow businessperson connected me to the Chinese. I went there and got the masks. The company is in Thika and it used to be a go down for hides and skin,” Ms Mugambi told the committee.

The committee chairman Abdulswamad Nassir raised concern that some Chinese companies might have used some of the firms as conduits to supply the masks – which they had imported prior to Kenya reporting Covid-19 case in March.

“This committee has heard a number of times about Chinese firms and individuals who are not mentioned but supplied PPEs to the local suppliers,” Mr Nassir said.

Villa surgicals that bagged a tender worth Sh142 million was paid in five days despite lacking all the necessary documentation for the business it did with Kemsa.

“The way this thing was done without any paperwork and payment within five days, it is clear you are protecting some people behind this,” Mr Nassir.

Ms Mugambi said they were just told to supply by the suspended Kemsa procurement manager Charles Juma but the prices of the items to be supplied were not indicated.

“Mr Juma told us that Kemsa has decided to buy at Sh4,500. That is what all other companies were told. There was nothing in writing,” Ms Mugambi said.

The committee, however, wondered how the company supplied without knowing the prices and they also never bothered to ask.

“Is it possible and normal to supply and buy items but you don’t know the prices? The prices were already pre-determined and the other thing you did was just a formality,” Mr Nassir said.

Ms Mugambi also failed to produce documents to show that her firm was among companies pre-qualified to do business with Kemsa.

She also failed to provide documents showing that they provided Kemsa with samples of the products they supplied for standards tests.

The committee also heard how Caresha Healthcare Solutions sealed the deal within 24 hours.

Caresha Director Caroline Kitur told the committee that she wrote an intent letter to Kemsa on April 16.

A day later, Kemsa gave her a commitment letter for Sh95 million. MPs doubted the speed with which the award was processed saying there must have been a powerful person behind her company that facilitated the process.

“I was told to commence supplies immediately and that the contract was to be drawn later. A Kemsa secretary said it was an emergency,” Ms Kitur said.

Records available before the committee indicate that Caresha Ltd is not among the prequalified companies at Kemsa. Ms Kitur insisted that her company is prequalified.

At the time of the award of the tender, Caresha also had no financial and technical capacity to handle the tender. It was also not given a sample receipt voucher that is normally attached to samples delivered to Kemsa for consideration.