NATIONAL Democratic Congress leader Chishimba Kambwili says the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) should take interest in the syndicates involved in the procurement of drugs at the Ministry of Health.

In an interview, Kambwili charged that Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya and his permanent secretaries were involved in the scandal.

“There is very big corruption going on at the Ministry of Health in terms of procuring of drugs. I mentioned earlier that we were going to have problems because the Ministry has decided to stop procuring health kits from Missionpharma and they have decided to be buying from individual chemists with the people that they know. Missionpharma has been involved in rural health kits in the continent of Africa and they are very experienced and we have never experienced shortages. We are now going to have problems because the people they have given that responsibility do not have the capacity and they are not experienced in that and I get this information from the ministry but when I talk, people think they are allegations, I am well informed,” Kambwili said.

“The minister (Dr Chitalu Chilufya) is involved and his permanent secretary and people at the ministry are not happy with what they are doing. ACC, DEC must move in immediately and find out how a company that did not exist in 2019 can be given a contract to supply drugs. I am reliably informed that that company was for a sole trader but they put limited on it and when you go to PACRA, you will find that company did not exist. People have made money from procuring of drugs and we have seen the property that they are owning, the porsche cars that they are driving and they lives they lead. But they are being shielded from being arrested. When it comes to the Constitution Amendment Bill 10, they recover because they need numbers in Parliament. Ba DEC, ba ACC ikateni aba bantu twapapata aya ma criminals yachilamo (DEC, ACC please we beg arrest these criminals it is too much of them).”

He wondered how a sole trader could win a US$ 17 million contract.

“And even when they say ‘we are investigating these people’ for property suspected to be proceeds of crime, those are small cases. Those people must be arrested for money laundering. We are talking about US$ 17 million and Missionpharma was owed US$ 11 million. How can a sole trader get a contract for that huge amount? All those involved in the procuring of drugs at the ministry should be investigated and face the consequences of their actions. It is deep rooted, it is a syndicate, a lot of people are involved, big names,” he said.

Kambwili warned that the country would experience a shortage of drugs.

“Right now, I am informed that we have a problem in rural areas. Today as I am speaking, health centers don’t have insulin, it is Missionpharma who used to supply this medicine. I don’t know how people will survive because a bottle of insulin is K275 and that lasts a week or so. Now for a poor man in Mongu, Mporokoso, Chadiza, how can they afford that? There are more of shortages to come. Missionpharma left because of frustrations of not paying them so that they could use their friends. Stop the rot! Reinstate Missionpharma so that the poor people don’t suffer,” said Kambwili.

An 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.