THIS is the last part of verbatim from the Parliamentary Accounts Committee hearing, where the Ministry of Health PS, Honeybee Pharmacy, ZAMRA, Medical Stores and other government agencies appeared for questioning over the US$17 million drug supply scandal:
Zakir: There was six to eight copies that were made for the bid document and on the copies, because there is an original copies and then there is copies made from that so when I recall, the original copy had a seal from the lawyer that we engaged and that seal may not have been captured on the copies that were also presented, I submit.
Kunda: Yeah, who signed that power of attorney, is it the lawyers or is it an employee of your company, who signed?
Zakir: There is actually two signatures on the document, one is representative of the entity giving the power of attorney to myself and so the other signature was by myself.
Kunda: There are two signatures, one from where?
Zakir: One was from the representative of the company and one was signed by myself.
Kunda: And to you that is the power of attorney?
Zakir: And then there was a seal from the lawyer.
Kunda: That is the power of attorney to you?
Zakir: The contents of, in the document…
Kunda: No, in this case let us be specific, we are dealing with your matter. Is that the power of attorney to you?
Zakir: Two signatures do not constitute the power of attorney in my understanding but the contents of the document giving authority to one person from an entity is what I believe constitutes a power of attorney.
Kunda: Okay, yes AG if you can just clear this issue.
Auditor General: Thank you Chair, the problem with this power of attorney which is submitted by Honeybee is that Honeybee are appointing the person to have the power of attorney and the same person they are mentioning to have the power of attorney is the same person who is signing this same document. So basically appointing yourself to have the power of attorney, thank you.
Kunda: (to Zakir) Have you understood?
Auditor General: and the bid said it should be a lawyer but in this case…
Kunda: Yes, the bid is very clear, it talks about the lawyer providing the power of attorney but we are seeing that you are giving authority to yourself. Yes.
Zakir: Thank you very much Honorable Chair, the correct position is not giving authority to myself, this authority was given to myself by the representative of Honeybee Pharmacy.
Kunda: The representative of Honeybee, the company?
Kunda: Okay, but the bid document is talking about a lawyer providing.
Zakir: The lawyer puts seal on that to validate the power of attorney that is my understanding.
Kunda: Oh, okay. AG is that the correct thing to do, is that the procedure?
Auditor General: Thank you Chair, maybe just to again provide clarity, I can briefly just take some sentence on this same power of attorney, if I may read, “Honeybee Pharmacy, a limited company, incorporated in the Republic of Zambia, address being number 19253 Chongwe road, Kamwala Lusaka do hereby nominate, ordain and appoint Zakir H Motala holder of national registration to be our lawful attorney, to bid, obtain, sign and execute contract”. Now, this same is being delivered and signed and signed by Zakir H Motala. He is the same person who is giving authority, who was given the attorney and is the one who is also signing giving himself. And he signs and the accountant signs then the seal comes from the lawyer and in this case, the lawyer, if you look critically at the seal it’s Makebi Zulu but again there is another letter where they are saying, “a legal representation of Honeybee, we wish to confirm that the said the same company” this is Thandiwe legal practitioners who are saying “as legal representatives of Honeybee Pharmacy, we wish to confirm”. So this is where now the whole thing is grey, which one is which. Motala gives himself the power of attorney, delivers it and signs the letter then again in the same breath another company is saying they are the representatives of Honeybee, also they are coming up with the letter confirming that they are the legal representatives then the seal again is coming from another law firm.
Kunda: We want bullet point answers, I think we have been sitting for a long time, this is going to 15:00 hours. Bullet answers from yourself, the director.
Zakir: Thank you very much Honorable Chair, this issue is actually at ACC, we have been asked the same question by the ACC also and we have given a position to ACC and we take great exception that our integrity and credibility is questioned. Honeybee Pharmacy is the entity that gave me the power of attorney to sign or to act on behalf of this entity. I did not give myself this power of attorney, this was granted to me by Honeybee Pharmacy. I submit.
Kunda: Yes, you said there are two signatures…
Zakir: Yes Honorable Chair
Kunda: …of two different people?
Zakir: Yes Honorable Chair. One signature is from the representative of Honeybee Pharmacy and the other signature was by myself.
Kunda: Okay. We have that on record, I think that we will go through. Now, there is an issue of photocopying, that the seal will not be seen on the photocopy. There are some people who feel that that may not be correct, that a seal will be photocopied and be seen on a photocopy; photocopied paper. Do you agree with that?
Zakir: Thank you very much Honorable Chair, the seal, it’s actually a watermark so it’s a water mark on the original document so when you are copying or you photocopying that, it is highly unlikely that it will capture the contents of the watermark. I submit.
Kunda: Okay. Honorable members, yes Honorable Simbao.
Simbao: Chair, that issue of photocopying, that can be done even from here. I remember my University results seal, I copied it and I could see it. So I don’t know this particular one, so that can be done, we have photocopiers here we can get the original and try it.
Mukosa: You see, the problem is photocopying machines are different and I don’t think it would be the right thing to do because we have no way of proving.
Kunda: Yeah, I think the Auditor General will deal with the verification and in that verification, we are directing that all those issues be taken into consideration and when the report has come to us, we shall deal with that matter accordingly. So having said that are there any other issues? Honorable members from the virtual platforms…we can start with you Honorable Mweetwa so that we give chance then go to Honorable Lumayi.
Mweetwa: Thank you Mr Chairman for your discretion to have allowed me this question. Mr Chairman, I would like to find out whether or not the controlling officer insists and holds on to her position that she does not know who authorised the distribution of these products given that at the ceremony which was graced by the Honorable Minister of Health where he was waving a Zambian flag to flag off distribution receipt of these products from Honeybee in which he stated that the ministry had received 2,376 health kits. She actually was present together with the other PS then, Dr Malama then she also intimated to the fact that now, manufacture and distribution of pharmaceutical products would be quickened given that in the past, you take about seven months to package and distribute, that is the function where she was present and she is on record, it’s in public domain. I just wanted to find out if she still insists Chair that she is unaware as to where the authority came from for Medical Stores to go ahead to distribute these products. I thank you for your discretion Honorable Chairperson.
(Other members ask questions unrelated to Honeybee)
Mulalelo: I will start with the question posed by the member of parliament for Choma, Honorable Chairperson I think the question that was on the table was that of who authorised and I did clearly state that my office was not aware of who authorised. Attending a ceremony does not mean that one is aware and this is a ceremony that was organised and coordinated by Medical Stores Limited, so I still stand by my earlier statement.
Kunda: PS, now you will be opening the Pandora’s Box. How can you state that attending a function does not mean that you know about the authority when you are the authority yourself. As permanent secretary, controlling officer, you are supposed to be the one in charge of these things. So how can you say that? Yes PS.
Mulalelo: Chairperson, I did state that the Ministry of Health has two permanent secretaries, one in charge of administration and one in charge of technical services.
Kunda: So, in this case, whatever happened was not supposed to come from your office, is that the statement that you are standing on?
Mulalelo: That’s what I am standing on yes.
(Officials provide answers on other matters unrelated to Honeybee)
Kunda: Honorable members, I think we have sat for a long time dealing with is matter. I just have one last issue. There has been reports in the media pointing to the fact that Honeybee director has stated that the Auditor General’s report was biased. Can the director confirm whether the report was biased or not? That is my last issue. Director.
Zakir: Thank you very much Honorable Chair, with regards to what appears in the newspapers, and in the media, it is very difficult because we have been vilified in the press for a very long time.
Kunda: My question is can you confirm?
Zakir: The confirmation of what Honorable Chair?
Kunda: Of the same that I have asked, whether the Auditor General’s report was biased or not because there are reports, there have been reports that were attributed to Honeybee that they were saying that the [AG] report was biased, do you confirm?
Zakir: No, I don’t confirm.
Kunda: Honorable members, our permanent witnesses, the media, the witness, the Ministry of Health, I think that we have been sitting for a long time from yesterday dealing with different issues that affect this country in as far as what the Auditor General’s report they brought out as irregularities in your ministry. I think that there are a number of issues and I have picked just a few to try and talk about as we close this meeting. I think you will agree with me and the committee that the ministry is a very important ministry to this country and therefore all of us look up to you as technocrats to provide a service to the Zambian people and that service should not have even a dot of a black patch because it deals with the lives, the health of individuals, the health of everyone sorted here and out there.
Our people, those people who have given us an opportunity to run their affairs and therefore it is expected of us as people who have been given that rare opportunity to be proactive in terms of dealing with issues that affect them rather than being reactive. We have seen that most these, if not all of them have just been reactive to the issues that have been raised by the Auditor General. I have not come across issues that have been, that were dealt with before the Auditor General came and I will refer to these bulky documents that we received. There are four volumes of these documents, supporting, attachments from issues that have been raised by the Auditor General, these documents are not for us, they are for the Auditors, when they come to audit, they are the ones who are supposed to be given this and I can assure you that once you give documents to the Auditors, no query would be put in the Auditor General’s report. But it is as a result of not putting emphasis and seriousness that documents are supposed to be kept in places where they are supposed to be accessed but we have seen answers in this submission that you have given us where you are saying the document was misplaced, how can that be? When we know very well that doctors keep documents for patients for years but this ministry that is mostly run by doctors we are seeing these irregularities as a result of poor record keeping.
I think that PS, it is unacceptable of the highest order for us to be seated here to come and be told that a document was misplaced. We, I think expect nothing but a perfect system from your ministry, from yourselves. Last year, we talked about the same issue of record keeping which we are talking about even this year. I think that we need to change and we need to change for the best, for better so that our service, the service that we are rendering to our people can be appreciated. We have seen that if it is not poor supervision, inadequate supervision. Those charges that you are giving to these officers, if it is not that then there is nothing. So, looking at your submission, yourself, you have identified that there is always poor, inadequate supervision by your officers. We expect that going forward, immediately you need to put in place these measures that should give an indication that you are seriously dealing with these matters.
And I asked here as to how many charge letters one has to receive for them to even be fired or something, for them to know, to make an example of so that the others could see that indeed PS, you are dealing with these matters and that it is not just for show at PAC sittings that you have charged this one, you have charged that one, we need to see examples. I am not referring to anyone, I think my passion, and indeed the passion of this committee is to see to it that the right thing is done for the benefit of our people, the benefit of this country. So, contract management, I think that we can’t overemphasize the fact that we have been sitting here dealing with issues to do with contract management and that you have been tasked to perfect the issues to do with procurement issues to do with finance, issues to do with distribution, I think everything else will fall in the issue of contract management, it’s all inter-related.
ZABS, ZAMRA, I think that all of us should work in a chain where if the next person is claiming that they don’t know, the third person would be able to remind that next person that if me the third person knows, you should know. I think that it is unacceptable for us to be talking about who knows what, who authorised, who did, I think that it is unacceptable PS, we need to see a situation where when we come to appear before these committees of parliament, and not just Parliamentary Accounts Committee, we come with facts, we come with information that the people of Zambia will accept and indeed the members of our various committees will accept. I think that we have seen some level of confusion that needs to be addressed immediately.
We don’t expect that this ministry that is dealing with the lives, saving the lives of the people should have patches, black patches. I think that we need a level where we can say yes, there may be a patch but even that patch, we have done this and that to mend it. So, having said that, for ZAMRA, I think we have stated a number of issues here that we cannot overemphasize the safety of our people is dependent on the decisions that you make and therefore we will not, I think be waiting to state that immediately, a decision has to be made, we cannot wait forever on this very important issue, a decision has to be made if those products have not already been finished.
Only yourselves will know how far the damage has reached but I think our job is to remind you that your task is a very serious one and that you cannot rest until this issue is resolved and resolved positively immediately. I think we need to have confidence and faith in our institutions, those institutions that we have put in place for ourselves to use, I feel that with this COVID-19 that we have experienced in this country, and indeed the whole world, we have had to depend on ourselves. So why we should be deciding to get information that has been given already by an institution that you are supposed to have faith in? You want to go and get information from outside when in fact the perimeters that are used to come up with decisions, to come up with results are acceptable globally? I think that we need to have faith in our institutions. I have talked a lot and I am sure you have seen the passion with which members of this committee have exhibited in trying to ask questions and trying to get clarifications, it is a passion that is driven by the people out their because we represent these people. It is not for an individual that maybe we would want to fix this individual or that one, ours is to establish so that when we make recommendations, they are informed and those recommendations are taken to the whole House so that decisions are made for the benefit of this country. I think that these members here and virtually present I am sure you have seen what they have exhibited, it is for one reason; for the betterment of this country.
Go well, but we don’t want to see you coming to appear before this committee to come and talk about contract management, to come and talk about record keeping as if we are at school. Let us work on these things so that we have a perfect system. Thank you very much as usual, as you leave this room, the immunity that was bestowed on you will be lifted knowing that you are not protected out there so you are on your own, so we will remain with our immunity thank you very much, PS.
Mulalelo: Thank you Honorable Chairperson and I would like to say thank you to the various committee members, I wish you a good day, thank you.