Action Aid Zambia (AAZ) Country Director Nalucha Ziba has insisted that Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya and his controlling officers must resign for failure to safeguard medical supplies.

Ziba told News Diggers in an interview that the fact that the minister was so defensive on issues involving theft of drugs in hospitals, it was a sign that the theft was within the government system.

She proposed that civil servants charged with the responsibility to superintend over drugs should be made to declare their assets before or upon appointment.

Ziba was commenting on the Kafue General Hospital theft scandal of HIV test kits among others medical supplies.

“It’s not really shocking to us as Action Aid because we are seeing this trend continuing especially having witnessed from the Global Fund report and we saw the defensive mode in which the Ministry of Health put up. And it has continued because if you want to pretend that there is no problem and you don’t want to own up and show commitment on how you are going to address it, then you are just basically perpetuating and encouraging theft within the system. So it is unfortunate that a hospital can start selling public procured goods into the market and even try to hide it and even threatening staff. So we expect appropriate action to be taken. But it is not just a matter of taking action, it’s also getting to address the structural and the root causes of what is really causing the theft of medical supplies in the hospitals. What is causing that? That is what we need to address as a nation because if we just continue removing and firing people, it will continue happening,” Ziba observed.

“So we really need to address that, are there loopholes in the way we are running our stores management and supply chains even in clinic, in hospitals and starting from Medical Stores itself? There is really need to rethink in terms of our supply chain of medical supplies if we are to curb this. But I think it is important also to begin getting people holding such senior positions as medical superintendent and so on to start declaring assets they have especially civil servants. It will really help as in the case of when somebody shows movement in terms of wealth and trajectory going up, you need to inquire to say ‘what is causing this?’ that is how we will try to curb this because you have to understand that corruption in Zambia has reached a cancerous level. It is more like a cancer, it has become part of our daily lives. So it needs a lot of interventions and holistic approach in terms of curbing and getting to the root cause of this.”

Ziba stressed that it was Dr Chilufya’s responsibility together with his controlling officers to safeguard medical supplies, and called for their resignation if they were failing in their duty.

“We hope that the law will take its cause on the culprits and we won’t see the usual defence mode that the ministry has been approaching this issue with, because at the end of the day, there are lives which would have been lost by failing to access those medical kits which were being sold on the black market and yet they were procured using tax payers money. We have been on record to say when you look at the numerous scandals the ministry [of health] has faced, if the minister had moral standing campus, he would resigned,” said Ziba.

“If it’s in normal democratic and normal societies, I don’t think he would even stay faced amidst of such challenges. You just resign, him and the entire controlling officers so that you pave way for new brains and new thinking. For us really he has failed. Whichever way you look at it, the scandals have been numerous. The ambulances, the medical supplies and all that but what we have seen is a defensive approach being taken. He needs to understand that even as he stands up to defend all that it is at the expense of those lives that are being lost out there.”