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By CHINOYI CHIPULU
Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) has expressed shock on how the Ministry of Health (MoH) awarded a U$$17 million contract to honeybee Pharmacy Limited despite knowing that  the company has irregularities as reported by Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority.

And TIZ has called for the suspension of Minister of Health and Permanent Secretaries in order to pave way for smooth investigations.

TIZ Executive director Maurice Nyambe said that it is unacceptable that the MoH could abdicate that crucial responsibility by presiding over and facilitating a process that resulted in a million Zambians being put at risk.

He said the negligence on the part of the Ministry meant that frontline health workers were exposed to COVID-19 through the use of gloves while condom users were exposed to sexually transmitted diseases.

“MoH allowed the countrywide distribution of medical supplies (condoms and gloves among others) that they knew were unsafe and the Ministry failed to properly account for a reported K63 million which remained from the K4.6 billion allocations it received from the Ministry of Finance.

“TI-Z finds this scandalous that those entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the health of the nation could so recklessly put the very health of citizens at risk seemingly because of the corrupt acts of a few selfish individuals hell bent on stripping this country of its much needed resources for their own private gain,”Mr Nyambe said in a statement.

He said it’s not a surprise that the MoH is yet again being cited for failure to account for public funds. “We have over the years raised concern around the financial mismanagement and questionable procurement processes that appeared to be rife at the Ministry. Even as recent as four months ago, we released a report from one of our projects that showed that the gaps existing in the Ministry’s handling of the COVID-19 donations were a potential conduit for corruption, which was confirmed a few weeks later by the Auditor General’s report showing that COVID funds were indeed misappropriated, “he said.

He said the Ministry risks becoming the epicenter of corruption.

“We want to strongly urge President Edgar Lungu to seize this moment and demonstrate his commitment to fight corruption and suspend the Minister of Health and both Permanent Secretaries at the Ministry in order to pave way for a serious independent investigation to be conducted into the issues that have been raised.

“And Consider constituting a Commission of Inquiry to get to the bottom of these scandals and to make recommendations that all officials implicated face punitive action, including prosecution where necessary, ” he said.

He said TIZ wishes to propose that the Ministry of Health’s status as a Government procurement entity must be revoked with immediate effect as it has been clear for a long time now that the Ministry does not have the capacity to engage in procurement activities that are above board.

“We believe that it is time another government entity was given the responsibility of procuring on behalf of the Ministry of Health until such a time that the Ministry puts its house in order, ” he said.

TIZ further wishes to reiterate its call for the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and other Law Enforcement Agencies to take keen interest in what has been transpiring at the Ministry of Health and conduct their own investigations to ascertain whether they need to take any action.

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