Ministry of Health Permanent secretary Dr Kennedy Malama says health personnel employed at public health institutions are allowed to work for private institutions as long as that does not interfere with their daily duties.

Dr Malama said this when he and his team from the Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) appeared before the parliamentary committee on parastatal bodies to respond to audit queries cited the Auditor General’s Report for the financial year ended 31st December 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

He told the committee that at the moment, there was no policy which barred public service health workers from giving consultancy work to private institutions.

“Moonlighting is permissible, so long someone does moonlighting, it could be a doctor, a pharmacist, a clinic officer within what is allowed. You are off duty, you are on leave, you may do something, so long its not infringing your daily work what you are employed for under government. And as I alluded to, where medicines of products from government premises or institutions find their way in a private outlet, that is a serious offence,” Dr Malama said.

Asked by one of the committee members Mulowa Mukumbuta on what punishment would be given to health officers involved in double dealings of taking medicine from public to private institutions, Dr Malama said stealing of drugs was a convictable offence.

He added that some health workers had been convicted for illegally transferring medical drugs from public to private institutions.

“And we would like to inform the honorable chair of this committee that it is true that some health workers have actually been convicted from that vice. And that is why ourselves we continue to intensify the sensitization, counseling and bringing to the attention of health workers that this is a very serious offence hence the establishment of a tax force which works incognito countrywide to ensure that we highten our suivailance. And no public health worker will be pardoned or special attention given to them in terms of lenience if found wanting in this matter,” Dr Malama explained.

“We are all aware that some of our doctors working in the public sector may also find their time working in the private clinic. As a health sector, we would want to ensure that all public service workers fully apply themselves on the public service work.what I meant was at the moment, we don’t have a policy so to say which says ‘you are a doctor, you cannot do any private practice in a private as a consultance’ for instance as you see them. So if you go any clinic of hospital in Lusaka district for instance, its clear that most of them are driven by public sector consultance working in our hospitals. The health sector would want to move a motion or we would want to move an agenda to say ‘how do we navigate so that our senior doctors spend all their time in the public sector?’ but definitely that will need a lot of support, a lot of engagement and a think through.”

And Committee Chairperson Peter Daka urged the Ministry of Health to ensure that conditions of service for health workers are improved so that they do not go to look for more income elsewhere.