NANGOMA Mission Hospital medical officer in-charge Dr Evans Muleya has testified that the hospital received drugs that were not ordered by authorised personnel.
Dr Muleya told the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court that it was surprising that the medicines were delivered by the police using an ambulance from Sikanze Police Hospital when Nangoma Hospital had available transport that would have been used to collect the drugs from Medical Stores Limited.
The witness was testifying in a matter in which three people, among them two police officers, are accused of stealing Government medicines and other supplies worth over K200,000.
In this matter, Kenneth Chikwanda, a 59-year-old administration officer working in the Zambia Police Service; Vincent Chibale, 41, a Pharmacy Technologist and Photipher Phiri, 47, a police officer and driver are charged with five counts of forgery, uttering a false document and conveying suspected stolen goods.
In count one, it is alleged that Chikwanda and Phiri between January 1, 2019 and November 30, 2020, with intent to deceive or defraud, forged a delivery note dated November 17, 2020 by purporting to show that it was genuinely issued by Medical Stores Limited (MSL) when in fact not.
In count two, it is alleged that on November 18, 2020, Phiri, knowingly and fraudulently uttered a delivery note to Ackim Sakala, a Pharmacy Technologist at Nangoma Mission Hospital.
In count three, it is alleged that between January 1 , 2019 and November 20, Chikwanda, Chibale and Phiri being employed in the public service namely Zambia Police Service as administration officer, pharmacy technologist and driver respectively, stole 500 Amiloride Hel 5mg/Hydrochlorothiazide 50mg tab, 1000 gloves latex examination, 1000 Nifedipine Retard 20mg tablets, 350 metronidazole 200mg tablet, 10 insulin short acting sol vial 100lu inj (10), 40 ceftriaxone sodium, PWD, 30 Ketamine hydrochloride 10ml, all valued at K216,255.17, the property of Government.
In the fourth count, it is alleged that between January 1, 2019 and November 30, 2020, Phiri had in his possession 2×5 litres of disinfectants reasonably suspected of having been stolen or unlawfully obtained.
In the last count, it is alleged that between the same dates, Chikwanda had assorted drugs reasonably suspected to have been stolen or unlawfully obtained.
The accused persons however, denied the charges.
When the matter came up for trial before Magistrate Nthandose Chabala, Monday, Dr Muleya testified that the hospital received drugs that were not ordered by authorised personnel.
The witness said that it was surprising that the medicines were delivered by the police using an ambulance from Sikanze Police Hospital when Nangoma Hospital had available transport that would have been used to collect the drugs from Medical Stores Limited.
“We were coming from Kapiri Mposhi with Sister Veronica Nyambe [when] I received a call from the pharmacy in-charge, Mr Ackim Sakala. However, I was driving and I didn’t pick it so the Sister picked it. She didn’t tell me immediately because we were in the company of others but we agreed to meet the following day to discuss the drug issue with the pharmacist in-charge. In the morning on the 18th [November, 2020], we convened to get information on drugs. While he was still informing us that drugs were already in the hands of police, another call came from Nangoma pharmacy, informing us that there was a car that had brought drugs but were inquiring whether they could receive or not,” he narrated.
“So at that point, we refused to receive those drugs because of earlier, so we needed local police to be around as we received. We called for a police officer and we found Mr Potiphar Phiri with an ambulance land cruiser, ZP 2343b. The person that was in the car told us [that] he was Mr Phiri Potiphar.”
The witness further explained that when Phiri delivered the drugs, he produced delivery notes that were not signed or stamped and that when questioned, Phiri said he just found the drugs in the car and was asked to deliver them to Nangoma.
“Since the delivery note was not signed, we tried not to temper with it. So I tried to inquire [but] he was not saying anything though the delivery notes were showing that they were coming from Medical Stores Limited,” he said.
Dr Muleya testified that when pressed about who authorised the ambulance to be released, Phiri said it was authorised by a named Chikwanda, who after being called, proposed that the drugs be sent back to Sikanze but the Nangoma police refused and said the drugs be used as evidence that they were brought to the facility.
He added that Phiri did not clarify which wing of the police he was with but the vehicle he used was an ambulance branded Sikanze Police Hospital.
Dr Muleya said it was then agreed that the drugs be handed over and a list was made on a plain paper indicating the drugs that were handed over at the hospital and was signed by Phiri, the Nangoma police officer and the pharmacy in-charge.
After the receiving the drugs, Dr Muleya explained that he, together with Sister Nyambe and Sakala, the pharmacists, went to Medical Stores where they found that the drugs were ordered by Ackiel Phiri, a pharmacist at Nangoma Hospital, but the quantities of medicines ordered and those received by the Hospital were not matching.
“The quantities that were brought to us by Phiri were less compared to the drugs that were issued and collected by Ackiel Phiri. I can cite two examples, metronidazole, we were given 24 tins by 1000 tablets but Medical Stores Limited had issued 350 tins by 1000 tablets. Examination gloves, we received 50 by 100 single gloves and yet Medical Stores Limited issued 1000 boxes by 100 single gloves. We also discovered that there were other orders that were made in the name of hospital that we never knew or received by the same Ackiel Phiri who previously served as pharmacy in-charge in the absence of Mr Sakala as he was at school,” he testified.
And in her testimony, Sister Nyambe, who is currently acting as hospital administrator, said that the letter that was used to get drugs from Medical Stores by Ackiel Phiri was falsified because it bore a fake signature and was written differently from the format frequently used by her office.
She however said in cross examination that she wasn’t aware if the police at Sikanze Hospital were misled in order for them to release the ambulance that was used to deliver drugs to Nangoma.
Meanwhile, pharmacy in-charge Ackim Sakala narrated that he had made an order on November 16, to MSL for emergency supplies because they hadn’t received supplies in a while.
He however, said he was surprised that there was an existing order that was awaiting pick-up.
“Later in the afternoon, I made a call to follow up, that’s when it was said it was for Nangoma and it was actually collected by Ackiel Phiri. So, that confused me more because I wasn’t aware and there was no vehicle from our facility which had gone to Lusaka to collect an emergency order from MSL. So she told me to say your friend has come to collect. When I asked which vehicle, she said it was a land cruiser but didn’t describe it further. Later in the evening around 20:30 hours, the same day, I received a call from someone saying he was Mr Phiri from the police and he told me had drugs from MSL and said he wanted to find me so that I could receive the drugs,” Sakala said.
During cross examination, Sakala said he was unable to inquire about the order from Ackiel Phiri because his phones went unanswered.
Trial continues on May 17, 2021.