TRANSPARENCY International Zambia (TI-Z) says it is extremely disturbed with revelations that Ministry of Health that last year awarded a US$17 million to supply health center kits to a company that did not exist.

In a statement, Thursday, TIZ executive director Maurice Nyambe observed that the Health Ministry had continued to make headlines for all manner of wrong reasons.

“TIZ is extremely perturbed by the revelations in the 9th June 2020 edition of the News Diggers newspaper to the effect that the Zambian government, through the Ministry of Health last year awarded a US$17million contract for the supply of health centre kits to a company that did not exist according to records at the Patents and Companies’ Registration Agency (PACRA). The importance of all government entities adhering to all the provisions of the Public Procurement Act of 2008 cannot be overemphasized as those provisions are meant to protect procurement processes from any undue influences that may result in improper conduct by any of the entities involved,” Nyambe stated.

“Public procurement of any kind should emphasise value for money and only credible companies with the necessary experience should be allowed to participate. We are all painfully aware of the numerous corruption allegations that has been associated with public procurement in this country, and it is still evident that this country continues to lose colossal sums of public resources through such suspicious transactions,”

Nyambe asked the ministry to immediately halt this tender to pave way for investigations.

“TI-Z makes an urgent call to the Ministry of Health to immediately halt this procurement process whether retrospectively or otherwise in order to allow for a comprehensive investigation to be carried out. Further, we call upon and challenge the Ministry to immediately provide the Zambian public with full information on this matter in order to clarify the circumstances under which what appears to be a gigantic procurement anomaly was allowed to happen. Further, we want to call for a forensic audit of all public procurement at the Ministry of Health from 2011 to date. It is possible that this award of a contract could just be one of several other scandals at the Ministry of Health,” he stated

Nyambe stated that it was unacceptable that a contract of that value and magnitude could be awarded in such a circumstance.

“Given the foregoing, TI-Z finds it not just astonishing but unacceptable that a contract of the value and magnitude as has been reported could be awarded in such circumstances to a company that was not in existence at the time of award of the contract. There is absolutely no justification for such action, particularly that Zambia has a number of well-established pharmaceutical companies with a track record in the drugs and healthcare supply chain. This unfortunate action is symptomatic of glaring weaknesses in the procurement systems at the Ministry of Health, and a blatant and shameless disregard of procurement systems and procedures as outlined in the Public Procurement Act,” he said

Nyambe said he was concerned that government entities had continued to treat procurement processes that costed huge sums of money with negligence.

“The unfortunate fact that there is precedence when it comes to such matters at the Ministry of Health is not lost on TI-Z. We recall that in November 2017, the Zambia Pharmaceuticals Business Forum (ZPBF) raised a red flag and wrote to the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) over concerns that the Ministry of Health was deviating from the Public Procurement Act restricting the award of tenders for the supply of drugs to selected pharmaceutical companies, a tender that was worth an estimated US$80million. TI-Z is concerned that government entities have continued to treat such procurement processes that cost huge sums of money with a laxity that gives a sense of trepidation about what else is going on,” he observed.

Nyambe appealed to the office of the Auditor General to take interest in the procurement processes at government ministries to stop apparent abuse.

“The Ministry of Health has in the last couple of years continued to make headlines for all manner of wrong doings particularly where public procurement is concerned and it is time that action is taken to clean up house and put a stop to the apparent rot. In the same vein, we would like to appeal to both the Office of the Auditor General and the ZPPA to take particular interest in procurement processes at government Ministries in order to put a stop to the apparent abuse and disregard of the provisions of the Public Procurement Act in these entities,” stated Nyambe.