PHARMACEUTICAL Society of Zambia (PSZ) president Jerome Kanyinka says there is a rot in the tender process at the Ministry of Health which has led to shortage of drugs in hospitals.

In an interview, Kanyika observed a retail pharmacy could not win a tender to supply drugs to the Ministry of Health.

He warned that as long as the tender process continued to be flawed at the Ministry of Health, there would be a continuation of inconsistencies of awarding contracts to companies that did not exist.

“This is the corruption. There is a rot at the Ministry of Health this is the outcome and eventually the people who are suffering are the Zambian people. The people are not having the medication because of the flaws in the tendering procedure and giving contracts to companies that don’t even deserve to win the contract. This has been happening for some time and the past four years has been the worst in terms of how the drugs have been procured at the Ministry of Health and this rot will continue if the right people are not placed in the tendering process. People at the Ministry of Health consider drugs as gold mines, which should not be the case. That is why you find that the right personnel are not being put in place in the procurement of drugs,” said Kanyika.

“A retail pharmacy cannot supply drugs to the ministry. And when awarding a tender, you need to award someone with a proper track record and able to supply quality drugs. We don’t even know if those health center kits have been supplied because the last consignment were those that Missionpharma gave the Ministry of Health from then, we have not received health center kits.”

He wondered wondered why the Ministry of Health terminated the contract of Missionpharma despite them supplying quality drugs.

“Our worry is how did we find ourselves awarding a contract to a company that was not the cheapest? The company that was the cheapest in the order was Missionpharma and it has been supplying these drugs to the Ministry of Health for years. But we don’t know why their contract was terminated we haven’t had a problem with the quality of drugs that they supply us. The Ministry of Health was owing Missionpharma US$ 11 million why didn’t the ministry pay Missionpharma the debt it owed so that they continue with their contractual obligations? Unlike terminating the contract without giving a proper reason?” Kanyika questioned.

“And this has resulted in our members losing jobs and this has affected the supply chain of drugs in the health centres. When you go to health centres today, you will discover that there are no medication, when you go in theatres most of the drugs that were supplied by Missionpharma were also used in theatres but you find that there are no drugs. Currently, there is no government institution that has pethidine, people are being told to use morphine and it doesn’t respond well to others.”

A News Diggers investigation revealed that government, through the Ministry of Health last year awarded a US$17 million contract for the supply of health centre kits to a company called Honey Bee Pharmacy Limited, which did not exist.

Research at the Ministry of Health shows that Missionpharma, a Danish company with a subsidiary in Lusaka had an active contract to supply and deliver drugs to Zambia for several years and was a key government partner for supplying health centre kits. However, owing to an US$11 million drug supply debt, the company stopped supplying in December 2018, demanding that the government first settles its debt; a move that forced the Ministry of Health to find a replacement.

According to an evaluation report for tender number MoH/SP/032/19 the Ministry of Health made a decision in July to procure 50, 000 health centre kits through a limited bidding process.

Records at the ministry show that a solicitation document for the tender was issued on October 7, 2019 and the evaluation of bids was done on October 22, 2019, while the contract between Honey Bee Pharmacy Limited and Ministry of Health was signed on November 22, 2019.

But Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA) records do not show any company that existed prior to 2019 registered as Honey Bee Pharmacy Limited.