PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has terminated health minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya‘s contract with immediate effect, replacing him with Bwana Mkubwa member of parliament Jonas Chanda.
And Transparency International – Zambia says although a welcome move, firing Dr Chilufya should not be the end of action as the Honeybee scandal has many layers.
Meanwhile, President Lungu has appointed nominated member of parliament Raphael Nakacinda as Minister of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection, taking over from Dr Chanda.
This is according to a statement by Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Isaac Chipampe, Sunday.
In June 2020, News Diggers published an investigative report in which it revealed that the government had awarded a US$17 million tender to a company that did not exist. The exposé also revealed that Honeybee was not qualified to win the tender as it failed the ZAMRA inspection and also used falsified financial statements to win the contract.
Last week, the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee heard that the Ministry of Health distributed leaking condoms and other substandard medical supplies under the US$17 million Honeybee contract.
During the sitting, Wednesday, Medical Stores Limited managing director Chikuta Mbewe admitted that Honeybee supplied substandard condoms and gloves, which were distributed in September 2020, without conducting any quality assurance tests.
Mbewe also admitted that the said condoms and gloves were not safe for human use given that they had failed quality tests at ZABS, further informing the committee that these items were still in circulation.
When asked why the condoms and gloves were not recalled despite failing tests at ZABS, ZAMRA director of laboratory services Bonaventure Chilindi said his institution was still waiting for ‘confirmation’ test results from a laboratory in Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, Milenge PF member of parliament Mwansa Mbulakulima said what the Ministry of Health was doing amounted to genocide.
Reacting to public outrage, President Lungu has fired Dr Chilufya.
“His Excellency Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia, has terminated the contract of Dr Chitalu Chilufya as Health Minister with immediate effect. And President Lungu has transferred Dr Jonas Chanda to the Ministry of Health. Dr Chanda was until today Minister of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection. Meanwhile, President Lungu has appointed nominated Member of Parliament Raphael Nakachinda as Minister of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection. The President has thanked Dr Chilufya for the services rendered to government and wished him well in his future endeavors,” stated Chipampe.
Commenting on the development, TIZ Executive Director Maurice Nyambe said firing Dr Chilufya was not enough.
“Transparency International Zambia (TI-Z) has taken note of President Edgar Lungu’s decision to dismiss Minister of Health Dr. Chitalu Chilufya in the wake of the Honeybee Pharmacy scandal. We welcome this move as an important and necessary first step towards cleaning up the rot that appears to be deeply rooted at the Ministry of Health,” said Nyambe.
“Our hope is that as important and necessary a step as this is, it will not be the only action we see in response to this scandal. We expect that law enforcement agencies will open investigations into Dr. Chilufya’s role in the Honeybee scandal and should he be found culpable, he be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We do not believe that dismissing Dr. Chilufya should be the end game over this as there are several layers to this scandal.
We, therefore, reiterate our call for a full investigation to be carried out into all the layers of the Honeybee scandal in order to get to the bottom of the issue and to hold everyone that was involved accountable for their actions.”