New details on the dire financial situation at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) surfaced on Tuesday, May 12, after the organization’s Director, Dr. Yeri Kombe, appeared before the National Assembly Committee on Health.
Kombe disclosed that the institute had exhausted the initial allocation from the government of Ksh158 million, as it requested more funds to allow the progress of various programs and purchase of crucial equipment.
It was revealed that the situation had affected Covid-19 response measures as KEMRI was unable to purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for its workers or chemical reagents for testing procedures.
Kombe requested that the government allocate Ksh950 million to KEMRI to facilitate their programs, with Ksh100 million earmarked for the hiring of scientists and researchers.
As a result of the situation, Kombe revealed, the institute had begun diverting funds meant for research towards the Covid-19 pandemic. He disclosed that if the requested funds were allocated, KEMRI would prioritise ramping up testing capacity, production of screening kits and vaccine development.
KEMRI also expects to spend a significant amount of the requested allocation on the acquisition of equipment including freezers and DNA synthesisers.
He also explained that it had received a go-ahead from the government to bring on board 62 more scientists to scale up operations to combat the global pandemic.
Kombe broke down the projected expenditures to MPs, explaining why at least Ksh950 million was needed to operate effectively.”A lot of reagents and materials are being used in screening and testing of the virus.
The institute has utilised most of the available resources and there is a need to procure more laboratory and personal protective equipment,” he noted in a report.
Confusion and turf wars between KEMRI and the National Influenza Centre have also been witnessed as the government agencies fight to steer the Covid-19 response.KEMRI had been in the headlines in April after Health CS Mutahi Kagwe demoted Joel Lutomiah, the lead researcher in charge of testing for Covid-19.
The incident sparked an uproar although Kagwe maintained that Lutomiah had failed to deliver Covid-19 test results on time.
Lutomiah’s colleagues, however, told reporters that he had been pushing for the government to provide them with proper resources including Personal Protective Equipment.