As the famous saying goes, One Man’s Meat is Another Man’s Poison.
While the rest of the world battled the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and its life-changing effects, a select few local and global entrepreneurs took advantage of the global gloom to turn around their fortunes and enjoy abnormal profits.
Despite businesses being some of the worst-hit victims of the deadly outbreak, some innovators, manufacturers, contractors and e-commerce investors collectively shared some of the biggest chunks of Coronavirus millions which circulated as nations rushed to respond to a virus which, in many ways, somewhat sparked a new world order.
Here in Kenya, a long list of companies that were previously grappling with brutal impacts of the harsh economic conditions suddenly roared back to life thanks to lucrative government tenders which saw them cash in millions.
According to Daily Nation, Uhuru Kenyatta received roughly Sh223 billion from several international players as part of his COVID-19 warchest.
The money was wired to Central Bank within 60 days and as the publication further revealed, Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) was the highest recipient of the funds since the government solely trusted the institution with the procurement of medical equipment.
Once the ‘great’ news hit the streets, some of the country’s biggest tenderpreneurs pitched camp at KEMSA offices yearning for a piece of the gigantic pie.
During the heat of the moment, some even chartered planes to China to physically fly in COVID-19 medical supplies while others prefered to wait for the goods (personal protective gear, ventilators and other medical items) to land in Nairobi, then snap them up in bulk.
A different group chose the strategy of waylaying nations at the airport and diverting them to private warehouses, waiting for the procurement whistle to be blown.
Records show that between the time Ministry of Health announced that the virus had come into the country and June 4, one State agency channelled close to Sh2 billion to nine companies for the government’s response to the pandemic.
This period of rushed resolutions gave some government ministries and county officials the perfect cover to break procurement laws, and order goods worth billions of shillings in bulk from little known companies and briefcase entities, some of which lacked the capacity to deliver.
The supply of PPEs and masks proved to be the most lucrative for companies, with many selling a single PPE kit for Sh9,000 and one KN95 mask for Sh700.
One such incident which stood out is that of one Ivy Minyow Onyango (barely 30 years old), who on January 22 (weeks before the pandemic’s first case was reported in Africa) walked into the companies registry and enrolled an entity named Kilig Limited.
Several weeks later, her company was handpicked and handed a Sh4 billion offer to supply hundreds of thousands of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), with each kit set to be delivered at an inflated cost of Sh9,000, from the then market price of Sh4,500, according to recent revelations in Parliament.
In another incident which somehow vindicates former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s profound declaration during a 2016 press conference, another one of the firms reported to have received the mouth-watering tenders is Ziwala Limited, a firm deeply associated with members of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s family.
For a quick refresh of the mind, in October 2016, the then NASA Leader Raila Odinga called a press conference at his Capitol Hill Office where he sensationally accused President Uhuru Kenyatta’s extended family of being involved in the alleged Sh5.2 billion scandal at the Ministry of Health which was then under investigation (and has never been resolved to this day).
In front of the glaring cameras, Raila cited internal audit reports of the Ministry of Health (MOH) to show that Sandales International Ltd, which had been paid Sh41 million by Ministry of Health was owned by President Uhuru’s sister Ms Nyokabi Muthama, cousin Ms Kathleen Kihanya and Mr Samson Kamiri as directors.
“This scandal is President Kenyatta’s. He must deal with it as such. He must tell the country what he knows when he knew it and what he did when he knew it!” thundered an angry Odinga.
His words from four years ago are now once again as relevant.
According to the companies registry, Ziwala Limited is owned by Samantha Ngina Muthama (daughter to the President’s younger sister Nyokabi Muthama) and June Nduta Kinyua.
The firm was awarded a Sh84million tender to supply 120,000 pieces of KN95 masks, with KEMSA procuring the masks at an inflated price of about Sh700 per piece.
The retail price at the time was Ksh 500 per piece.
Samantha Ngina and June Nduta Kinyua
Besides being cousins, Kathleen Kihanya and her cousin Nyokabi Muthama are also closely linked to the Kenyatta Trust. At the organisation, Nyokabi is a director while Kathleen is a mentor with President Uhuru as a Patron.
June Nduta Kinyua is Kathleen Kihanya’s daughter while Samantha Ngina Muthama is Nyokabi Muthama’s daughter.
On its official company website, ziwala.co.ke notes that the company is privately owned and managed.
Its directors are listed as June Kinyua and Njau Muriuki, both of whom are cousins as their mothers Mumbi (Muriuki’s mother) and Kathleen (June Kinyua’s mother) are siblings.
June and Njau are, therefore, niece and nephew to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
However, according to official search at the Company Registry dated 16th July 2020, the current directors and shareholders of Ziwala Limited are Samantha Ngina Muthama with 400 Shares and June Nduta Kinyua with 600 Shares.
Both also interestingly share a common address: P.O. Box 19495 GPO Nairobi.
How the daughters June Nduta Kinyua (Kathleen’s daughter) and Samantha Ngina Muthama (Nyokabi’s Daughter) bagged such a lucrative deal in a state agency has set tongues wagging, with many Kenyans worried that the critical Health sector might indeed be the first family’s preferred cash cow.
Also worth noting is that this fresh scandal involving Uhuru’s nieces and nephews comes barely a month after another family member Peter Kihanya suddenly increased his shareholding in betting firm SportPesa just days after the gambling industry giant regained its license and sports betting taxes were waived by Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukuru Yattani.
Peter Kihanya is an uncle to both June Nduta Kinyua and Njau Muriuki being the elder brother to their mothers Kathleen and Mumbi Kihanya.
June is named after their late grandmother Grace Nduta, mother to Josphat Muiruri Kihanya, their patriarch, who passed on in 2016.
On the father’s side, June Kinyua is the daughter of Ernest Kinyua Kamau (Director of Tea Holdings Ltd based in Limuru) whose father is former nominated MP Jackson Kamau Chege as per court documents filed in 2007.
June Kinyua, a University of Buckingham graduate, appears to be the eldest of the three cousins who are linked to Zimala Limited.
From photos which have been circulating online, its rather evident she has already started a family.
Njau Muriuki also went to United Kingdom for further studies and graduated around 2015.
Samantha Ngina Muthama’s social media accounts reveal she is barely past her mid-twenties.
In May, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe vowed to crush cartels in the Ministry of Health, but some very senior employees of the government who were perceived to be part of the cartels refused to be transferred. Seemingly, they enjoy protection from higher authorities, and Kagwe seems to have given up.
Despite the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) launching investigations into the Covid-19 billions, the investigations might not see the light of the day, like we have seen previously in scandals involving the first family.
It remains to be seen how the State House will react to this latest alleged scandal involving members of the first family.
In 2018, President Uhuru promised Kenyans that he will spare no one in the fight against graft.
“You can be my brother or my sister or my closest political ally but if you are corrupt we will fight you,” he then sensationally pledged.
But if the handling of the scandal involving Kathleen Kihanya and Nyokabi Muthama and their company Limited is any precedent, nothing will be done to Ngina Muthama, June Kinyua and Njau Muriuki or their company Zamala Limited.
Other firms that have landed multi-million-shilling contracts at KEMSA include Accenture Kenya Limited, whose ownership we could not verify with certainty as we could not find any company registered by that exact name at the company registry.
The mystery firm is among those that were awarded contracts, whose budgets were not covered by the Kemsa budget, putting them at the centre of the ongoing fraud investigations.
Abyssinia Group of Industries (AGI), like others, was awarded a contract to supply 30,000 pieces of N95 face masks at a cost of Sh900 each which saw the company make Sh27 million.
The name of the firm’s directors could not be found since its record does not exist on the online public portal of the registrar of companies.
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