The events of Wednesday at the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) sitting where officials from the Ministry of Health, Zambia Medicines and Regulatory Authority (ZMRA), Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) and Honey Bee appeared for questioning over the $17 million contract for the supply of health kits have left many questions in the minds of Zambians than answers.
Through the grilling of these officials by members of the PAC, we came to learn that actually, ZAMRA issued the licence to this sole trader on a Sunday while the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health had no information relating to who approved the health kit supply contract. As if that was not enough, ZABS revealed that actually, the condoms and gloves that this company supplied to the government failed the test and further samples were sent to Zimbabwe and results are being awaited. To make it worse, these condoms were distributed by the Ministry of Health without validation, a serious oversight for which the permanent secretary in charge of administration Ms Kakulubelwa Mulalelo said the ministry regretted the irregularities in the Honey Bee drugs saga. ZAMRA equally admitted its careless handling of the Honey Bee matter after it was revealed that this institution had no validation for distribution of the “defective” condoms.
Zambians need to know who awarded the tender to Honey Bee Pharmacy, who authorized the distribution of medical supplies that didn’t meet the grade (Paracetamol, Condoms, Erythromycin and other medical supplies), how long it takes to certify medical supplies? These questions need to be answered and the earlier it is done, the better.
This is a serious scandal which the government investigative wings must have gotten on a long time ago and culprits arrested and prosecuted to ensure justice is served. Where is the Anti-Corruption Commission for all this to be going on and only to be known when the Auditor General’s office releases the annual reports that bring out such misappropriation of taxpayers’ money? What does ZAMRA stand for to even fail to validate condoms and gloves supplied through a contract at a huge expense to the taxpayer? Why didn’t the Zambia Bureau of Standards stop the distribution of these condoms which failed the test? And finally, why did the Ministry of Health flag off the distribution of medical supplies that were not validated?
From all these questionable issues brought out, there is someone involved and they are known people. By now, these people would have been appearing before the courts of law answering to charges for the roles played in the irregular supply contract given to Honey Bee. PAC could actually have been summoning them while they are already appearing before the courts. That would be the most proactive way of handling issues of such magnitude.
It is careless for the ACC to wait until the President expresses concern on such matters before they can move in to carry out their mandate. Why are they there? They are an autonomous institution for all we know and they have to demonstrate that autonomy by their swiftness to take up matters that require prompt investigations to save the country such embarrassment. This is a serious scandal that should make them jump to their heels and call their team to line to get the matter out of the way.
For now, Zambians expect the ACC to do its job and to do it as expected and that is to conclusively investigate this matter and have every wrongdoer prosecuted before competent courts of law.