Remarks for Ambassador Robert F. Godec: Launch of KEMSA Medical Commodities Program

Principal Secretary Khadija Kasachoon,
Dr. John Munyu, KEMSA CEO,
Distinguished guests.

Waheshima,
Mabibi na mabwana,
Hamjambo.
Habari zenu?

Principal Secretary, colleagues, it is a pleasure and an honor to be with you today to launch our groundbreaking new partnership, the USAID-KEMSA Medical Commodities Program.  This program is funded by the American people through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the President’s Malaria Initiative, and USAID’s Global Health Programs.  But here’s what’s truly important: our new partnership will help millions of Kenyans get life-saving drugs more quickly and efficiently.  We should all be proud of this new, landmark partnership that demonstrates the benefits of hard work and dedication.

The United States has collaborated with Kenya for over 50 years on improving the health and wellbeing of the Kenyan people.  Today, we take the next step.  We sign and launch our new partnership, the Medical Commodities Program.  Under this agreement, USAID will provide KSH 65 billion (US $650 million) to KEMSA to acquire and supply lifesaving drugs and commodities across the country.  And I want to be clear about the historic nature of this agreement: this program represents the largest single bilateral award ever made by a USAID mission in the history of the agency.  This historic award underscores the enduring commitment of the United States to the welfare of Kenyans.

While the Medical Commodities Program is a landmark in our assistance, it is also a major step in Kenya’s capacity to deliver health services to those who need help.  Historically, the U.S. government and its partners have purchased medical supplies such as HIV test kits, antiretroviral drugs, contraceptives, and malaria medicines and then distributed them across the country.  With this program, KEMSA will procure and distribute these supplies directly.  And, as a result, millions of Kenyans will receive high-quality medicine and treatment faster and more efficiently.

The Medical Commodities Program represents a significant shift in the way we are doing business in Kenya.  But, I also want to be clear about one other critical point.  While we have confidence in KEMSA to manage this program funded by the American people, we have also taken strong steps to ensure there is full transparency and accountability.  We will have extensive oversight.  Integrity and efficiency in this program is not just something we hope for; it is something we require – and we know it is something Kenyans demand as well.

We do so because, as we all know, corruption is a crisis in Kenya.  As I have said frequently, it is undermining the country’s future.  Corruption threatens Kenya’s economic growth, the provision of government services, and security.  It threatens the country’s health care system.  It must end.  And for that to happen all public programs must live up to the highest standards.  There must be zero tolerance for corruption.  Public funds must go to their intended beneficiaries – in this case patients suffering from life-threatening diseases – and not into the pockets of officials who betray the public trust.  The United States’ position on this problem is very clear: all allegations of corruption must be investigated; and when evidence is found officials must be prosecuted and, if guilty, sent to prison regardless of their position or wealth.  Ending corruption is first a task for leaders, but it is also the responsibility of everyone, all Kenyans.  And, as a friend,  the United States  will do all it can to help, as promised in the joint commitment issued during President Obama’s historic visit.

Our new program with KEMSA is a testament to our confidence in the organization.  Receiving funds from the U.S. Government is not easy and effectively managing resources on this large scale is even harder.  To ensure KEMSA is able to take on its new responsibilities and succeed, we have invested in its systems and its people for the past 13 years.  The U.S. government  has supported KEMSA in its efforts to  improve its ability  to manage procurement,  storage, and distribution  of medical equipment,  including life-saving  test kits and medication  for child and maternal health,  HIV/AIDS,  and malaria.

KEMSA has undergone regular audits and had significant oversight under the watchful eye of an accounting firm.  KEMSA’s management systems have been strengthened to include the development of specific inventory control systems to improve the transparency of its business practices.  Under the new contract, KEMSA will be audited and each expenditure will be agreed upon and approved in advance by a U.S. contracting officer.  Each sub-contract KEMSA awards will also be approved by USAID.  To sum it up, and to paraphrase a former American President, we will “trust but verify.”  We recognize KEMSA as a center of excellence for health service delivery across the continent and we are giving KEMSA the resources to put its skills to work for the people of Kenya.  But we will also continue to work closely with KEMSA to ensure our shared goal – the efficient and rapid delivery of life-saving medicines and commodities to the people of Kenya –  is met.  This program is an impressive example of the collaboration between the U.S.  And Kenyan governments to protect and improve the health of the Kenyan people.  I congratulate the Government of Kenya and KEMSA on this achievement.

During his visit,  President Obama  highlighted our commitment  to our partnership  to improve health  when he said,  “…across Africa,  Kenya and the United States will keep working  to strengthen  public health systems…Together we can save lives.”  Today we take another step forward in realizing President Obama’s commitment to improve the health of the Kenyan people and towards strengthening the partnership we have enjoyed for more than 50 years.  We look forward to continuing this partnership through innovative and focused programs such as the USAID-KEMSA Medical Commodities Program.  Investing in the health of Kenyans is a critical step in ensuring a bright and prosperous future for this country.

Once again, I congratulate KEMSA and the Kenyan Government on the Medical Commodities Program.  We look forward to many more successes in the coming years as we work together to help Kenyans enjoy long and healthy lives.

Pamoja tusonge mbele.

Asanteni sana.