Kafue General Hospital medical superintendent and other laboratory managers have instructed junior officers to manipulate stock control cards to cover up theft of HIV test kits and other lab commodities which occurred in 2017.
In recordings sent to News Diggers! by a whistle-blower, Kafue General Hospital (KGH) medical superintendent, a Dr Mapani, KGH laboratory in charge Mandona Chungu, her former deputy Judy Mwanza and senior laboratory technician Peter Zulu are heard instructing their juniors to fill in back dated stock control cards and scratch them to make them look old so that the audit can go smoothly.
They are heard warning that, should the audit reflect the missing laboratory commodities, they would all be charged to pay for the very expensive medical kits for up to five years.
But when contacted, Dr Mapani said she could not deny or accept giving such instructions because the audit was on-going whilst Chungu expressed ignorance saying all the submitted cards were genuine.
“Basically, the stock control cards are cards where we enter details of all the items that we receive and also how they move. Now we have had issues whereby instead of entering those details, the in-charge used to keep the cards to herself and there were instances where they would come to the hospital at awkward hours to get lab commodities without proper explanations. But they are seniors so they cannot be questioned. These lab commodities comprise HIV test kits, CD4 reagents, syphilis kits, gloves, urine containers and many other things,” the whistle-blower narrated.
“But then when the auditors came, they found a lot of issues on the stock control cards, they were not updated and things were not adding up. So that’s when a plan was hatched that the cards must be back dated.”
And in the recordings, Chungu is heard asking her colleagues to work on new stock control cards in order to dupe the auditors.
“These are errors that we have to address as a department. My signature cannot be there through out, Mrs Mwanza’s signature can’t be there throughout. No one’s signature can be there throughout, meaning that all of us should handle the cards…we have to put the different signatures on the new cards,” Chungu is heard talking.
“What we want is the things which were not entered to be entered because if something was entered, there is no issue, you just put the dispatch note number that was not appearing. But if things were not entered, we just have to enter, there is no other way of dealing with this other than like this. You can go and ask even in other departments. You can go to accounts, go to pharmacy, this is how you handle audit issues, there is no other way. So it is not like we are asking [you] to do anything illegal or anything, no…and we have to make the card a bit dirty so that it doesn’t seem new. That’s how audit issues are handled.”
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After noticing that no one was willing to comply with these instructions, Chungu convinced Dr Mapani to convene a meeting asking the officers to participate in trying to make the stock cards balance.
“I was saying to Mandona yesterday, I was saying that the issue of auditors is very important and no one is exempt from answering to audit queries in a department. When auditors come, you down tools, you stop what you are doing the way we have stopped now so that you sit down together and answer. Failure to which you pay, and it is not the institution to pay, it is individuals because they won’t allow us to get government money to pay for commodities which were delivered. It is individuals, from your pay. That’s why me I said if audit queries need to be addressed in the lab, we down tools. We can even put a notice that lab closed for whatever number of hours, so that we answer to the audit queries. Failure to which, if 50 boxes are missing, we divide between us to say okay ‘you bring four, you bring three’, until we get all the numbers. That’s how it works,” Dr Mapani pleaded with the staff.
“So the issue of updating cards is the responsibility of everyone because if you don’t get cards, it is you to pay. The institution will not cough out money and you cannot be allowed. You steal from the same institution then the same institution should bring money to pay? No. So if the auditors say ‘yes, update the cards’, update the cards. You sit down together and you try to recall, on this day I got two boxes from the store room, you enter and you enter until things balance and it is not the responsibility of the in-charge alone, it is everyone. So the beginning point is not to allow ourselves as lab to have gaps. As we are working everyday, we keep updating, obviously at the end there will be a few gaps which you can easily attend to than to wait for an auditor…so the issue of updating the cards is everyone’s responsibility. Having clarified here, I don’t want to hear this again.”
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Meanwhile, Zulu cautioned his colleagues to speak the same language during one-on-one interviews with auditors, warning that failure to give convincing reports would lead to everyone being charged and having about K2,000 deducted from their salaries for about five years.
“We need to speak with the same voice… There is this issue of cards not being up to date. Some things that we received from Medical Stores were not entered and so we updated those cards, you remember? So those guys are saying the cards look new meaning they were updated now. The best is not to say that they were updated now. Okay there are some cards which we can say we updated them now because we didn’t see the other cards, you get the sense?…the issue of dispatch notes, a lot were missing so in that case, if they don’t find a dispatch note, it means those things did not come here. So they suspect the drivers, that they took those things somewhere else,” Zulu contributed.
“Even this year, the cards are not up to date so it means that even the next audit, we will be in trouble. So that’s why we suggested that we should also update the cards for this year. We should find a way, like the way we were updating from January up to December. And the best is that we should have one voice because if we have different voices, those guys will take advantage. And it’s not like they will charge one person, it is the whole department. And I can assure you, these things are very expensive. If you check the prices, you just calculate what is missing and then they will just divide us. Now you can imagine they start deducting K2,000 from your salary saying you lost lab commodities. So it is better we just deal with this and then we see the way forward.”
He said he suspected someone tipped off the auditors that something was amiss at KGH.
“And I suspect we have shushushus everywhere, so it is like there is someone who reported to say things here are not okay. It’s like they saw someone getting things here and taking it somewhere, that’s what I suspect…So they will charge all of us but at least I wasn’t here so I will be excluded,” said Zulu.
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But when contacted, Chungu denied instructing junior officers to manipulate stock control cards.
“Oh my God! No! I haven’t done any of that. Who gave you that information? That’s false information, I haven’t done any of that. I don’t know where that is coming from. I haven’t instructed anyone to manipulate any card. I don’t know who’s given you that information honestly speaking,” Chungu said.
She said the cards which had been submitted to the auditors were genuine ones which were filled in last year.
“No, I haven’t instructed anyone to scratch them and make them look old, this is the truth. I don’t know who is giving you this false information. The cards the auditor has are the real cards… these are things that were being entered when things were coming in and out of the clinic at that time. I didn’t ask anyone to alter any cards.”
When informed that News Diggers! was in possession of recordings in which she was clearly giving instructions to her juniors to manipulate cards, Chungu cut the phone call.
When called back, Chungu said she did not know what this reporter was talking about and could not continue with the conversation.
“I don’t know what you are talking about, you know, right now I don’t know where you are calling me from. You are saying News Diggers but there is noise and the information that you are talking about, I don’t know what you are talking about. So honestly speaking, I can’t continue with this conversation because I don’t even know what you are talking about and what all this is about,” said Chungu.
Meanwhile, Dr Mapani could not confirm or deny whether or not she was part of those who instructed juniors to fill in new stock control cards.
Below is a verbatim of the interview:
Q. We have some information about the audit which is going on at Kafue General Hospital. We are told stock control cards were being altered to cover up for some irregularities, I wanted your position on this before the story is published.
A. The audit is still ongoing and we have not yet been debriefed so I don’t have that information that you have.
Q. The issue is not the audit itself but the fact that some of the stock control cards given to the auditors are being altered.
A. That’s what I am telling you, I am waiting to hear from the auditors, I don’t have that information that you are asking me.
Q. So you did not at any point as the lab technicians to alter the stock control cards?
A. I am saying the auditors are still on the ground, I am still waiting to hear from them.
Q. Yes, but we have recordings where instructions were being given for people to alter the stock control cards and we don’t want to publish this story without getting your position on why you were doing that.
A. My position is the same. Audits in government are routine and so I am still waiting to hear from the auditors.
Q. Do you deny ever instructing anyone to alter any of the cards?
A. I don’t know who is the source of your information.
Q. I cannot tell you my source but I would like you to state whether or not you deny instructing anyone to alter any of the cards.
A. I cannot comment on that because the audit is still going on. We do not comment on things like that and as government, we have got SOPs on commenting in the media. The Ministry of Health has got a spokesperson whom you can contact on that.
Q. Yes, there is a spokesperson but this is about you as an individual. The spokesperson would not know whether or not you participated. They would also like to hear it from you.
A. Yes, but it would not be right for me to comment on an ongoing audit.
Q. Okay, thank you so much. This is sufficient for balancing our story.
A. Thank you.