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Joel Lutomiah: Senate says sacking of top KEMRI official illegal

A Senate committee led by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja has said that the sacking of Joel Lutomiah as the director of the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Centre for Virus Research was unlawful.

According to the committee’s report, Lutomiah’s removal for allegedly failing to provide COVID-19 results on time for Health CS Mutahi Kagwe’s briefing was illegal since it was hurriedly and did not follow the required procedure.

READ ALSO: Storm over demotion of Kemri’s top official

“The preliminary observation of the Committee is that the demotion of Dr Lutomiah was carried out in a rushed and unprocedural manner and did not comply with provisions of the Constitution,” the committee said.

Lutomiah was demoted on April 17 by CS Kagwe who ordered him to revert to his role as a research scientist.

“This is further to our meeting with the Cabinet Secretary on the matter relating to your conduct. You, this morning, delayed the release of Covid-19 laboratory results of last evening contrary to an earlier agreement with the Ministry of Health that you release them before 8 a.m,” reads part of a letter addressed to Dr Lutomiah.

It added:

“You, therefore, have failed in your duty to honour a matter that is of national importance… I hereby relieve you of your duties as the director, Center for Virus with immediate effect. You will handover to Dr Samson Konongoi who will act until a substantive holder is appointed. Meanwhile, revert to your previous position as a research scientist.”

However, CS Kagwe has distanced himself from the saga, explaining that the action was a “normal administrative issue” at Kemri.

“My understanding was that the individual was never sacked, but was just transferred from one department to another,” Mutahi told the National Assembly Health committee in April.

Sources within the institution said the researcher was dismissed for questioning the government’s commitment to supporting the research institute financially as well as providing protective gear to lab workers who claimed they were only supplied with gumboots.

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“We only received white gumboots from the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency as personal protective gear last month… He demanded answers and even threatened to stop the tests if we were not given the protective equipment. This is why he has been removed from the position. He is firm,” said a source who spoke to Nation.

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