Dr Canisius Banda says theft of ARVs, HIV test kits and other drugs at Medical Stores Limited clearly is a national calamity because Zambians are killing themselves.

According to an investigation report released, April 26, and titled “Investigation of Global Fund Grants to the Republic of Zambia: Theft of Health Products from Medical Stores Limited”, drugs and HIV test kits were stolen from Medical Stores between 2014 and 2016 and sold to other entities.

Reacting to the revelations, Dr Banda said it was sad that it had to take a foreigner’s eye to reveal such crimes against humanity.

He urged Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya to get to the bottom of the reported national calamity and heal the nation with judicious forensic action.

“Pilferage or theft of public medicinal drugs does not only cause or perpetuate disease, but it is itself a lethal disease. If indeed it is true that government drugs, drugs belonging to the people of Zambia, were stolen from a government warehouse, the Medical Stores, then that is very tragic and a terrible indictment of the kind of people that we are. Chances are it is Zambians themselves that stole. This means that we indeed are thieves. What is worth noting is that such robbery robs lives. People die as a consequence. This means that we are killers. We are killing ourselves, that we are committing suicide as a people, as a nation,” Dr Banda stated in a sombre statement sent to News Diggers!

He wondered what kind of a nation Zambia was with such high levels of drug pilferage.

“That our own security guards or systems failed to prevent this crime clearly illustrates that the same people charged with securing these commodities are the ones illicitly helping themselves to them. The buck stops with them. It is sad that it had to take a foreigner’s eye to reveal this crime against humanity. Barring that, this criminal stench might have remained hidden, undetected to our flawed nostrils. This then is likely to be an inside job. Further, when drugs expire, it means that our quantification and procurement processes are flawed, not impeccable,” Dr Banda narrated.

“One, we might have, being poor and going for the cheap, purchased drugs with a short shelf life. Two, ignorant of the national demand and antecedent consumption patterns, we might have procured drugs without inspiration from such vital statistics. In both cases it means that our procurement planning and execution are deeply flawed. Expired drugs promote germ resistance and kill people. Dispensing them is not only illegal but it is evil as well. Further, disposing of expired drugs might even be costlier than purchasing the right unexpired drugs. Therefore, this lose-lose culture that seems to be what we are as a people must be brought to a halt forthwith.”

He said Dr Chilufya must act and crack the whip of discipline.

“President Lungu says that we are a Christian nation and that our national values and principles prohibit pilferage. What kind of Christians are we then, the kind that steal from ourselves, suicidal Christians? My dear and beloved brother, Dr Chitalu Chilufya, Zambia’s Minister of Health, must get to the bottom of this national calamity and heal the nation with judicious forensic action. He must act. He must crack the whip of discipline. Barring this, everything in the country will remain ill, diseased, the people and their culture, the systems, everything,” lamented Dr Banda.

And Dr Banda prayed for “national cultural cleansing.”

According to the report on MSL, Global Fund had resolved to recover US$1.06M from the Ministry of Health, being the principle recipient.

“In October 2016 and in April 2017, the Global Fund Secretariat notified the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) that they had been informed by Medical Stores Limited (MSL), a government distributor of health products that HIV test kits, funded by other donors, had been stolen from their warehouse. The OIG also received information that a non-governmental organisation (NGO) had bought HIV test kits in the capital, Lusaka, including some financed by the Global Fund that had been originally delivered to MSL. The ensuing OIG investigation determined that Global Fund-financed health products totalling US $1.06M could not be accounted for. Evidence suggests that these products were stolen over a two-year period, between 2014 and 2016. This issue of theft of products from MSL is currently being investigated by the Zambian authorities,” read the report.

“The investigation identified significant unexplained stock losses of Global Fund-financed pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical health products totalling US $1,064,788 delivered to MSL between 2014 and 2016. The losses, which were neither effectively investigated, nor reported to the Global Fund comprised: EF5,790 HIV test kits valued at US $416,379 (7.5% of total Global Fund-financed kits delivered between 2014 and 2016). 67,967 bottles of antiretrovirals (ARVs) valued at US$423,209 (2.6% of total Global Fund-financed ARVs delivered between 2014 and 2016). 11,442 artemisinin-based combination therapy packs (ACTs) valued at US $214,486 (2.4% of total Global Fund-financed ACTs delivered between 2014 and 2016). 2,521 malaria rapid diagnostic test kits (MRDTs) valued at US $10,714 (1.7% of total Global Fund-financed kits delivered between 2014 and 2016). The investigation found that stock quantities recorded in MSL’s electronic warehouse management system were negatively adjusted to reflect missing stock identified during annual stock takes. MSL staff could not explain the stock losses and the OIGs investigation also could not reconcile the stock adjustments with any outbound deliveries, expiries or other events. The overall loss totals US$1,064,788, 3.2% of a total of US $33.4M of deliveries investigated. These losses are non-compliant expenditure, as per the terms and conditions of the relevant Global Fund grant agreements.”