VETERAN politician Vernon Johnson Mwaanga says newly appointed Health Minister Dr Jonas Chanda should take the Swedish government’s warning seriously by taking corrective measures.

On Wednesday, Swedish Ambassador to Zambia Anna Maj Hultgård warned that her government’s relations with Zambia would not be able to survive if scandals continued to happen in the Ministry of Health.

Commenting on this in an interview, Mwaanga, a seasoned diplomat, said the state of affairs was unacceptable and exposed the country’s public health sector to ridicule.

“I have been an outspoken critic of corruption for many years. I have written about it on countless occasions. What has been happening at the Ministry of Health is very disturbing and the Swedish Envoy has now issued a public warning, to the effect that if scandals at the Ministry of Health, do not stop, Sweden will cut ties with Zambia. The new Minister of Health and the new Permanent Secretary for Health, should take this warning seriously and take corrective measures. Dubious tenders for medical supplies were being given to companies which had no capacity to secure and supply these medical items, which include expired drugs, which are now being hastily withdrawn from the market,” said Mwaanga.

“All this is taking place against the backdrop of a Coronavirus pandemic, which has ravaged the world, including Zambia. The second wave of COVID-19 is proving more deadly than the first one, as the number of new infections and deaths drifts out of control. Our major hospitals have run out of vital drugs and patients have to be given prescriptions to buy medicine from private pharmacies. This state of affairs is unacceptable and exposes our public health sector to ridicule. Zambians deserve better. There is a public loss of confidence in our public health sector and a herculean task will be required to regain this public loss of confidence.”

Speaking during a virtual meeting with Dr Chanda, Tuesday, Ambassador Hultgård said her government had a zero tolerance policy for corruption and respected tax payers’ money.

She said irregularities needed to be immediately addressed in order to sustain relations.

“I think what is worth stressing from our perspective and from my perspective in particular is the transparency and accountability that was mentioned. Of course it is something that underpins all our partnership and our work. Globally, we have a zero tolerance on corruption. We have systems in place with both in internal controls but strong expectations of partners in terms of financial accountability. And I think the basis for this is our understanding that we respect tax payers’ money, there is always a discussion within Parliament of our development cooperation. And any corruption matters will be discussed and addressed and in the Swedish media in general. And that is why it is in our best interest to have measures and guidelines in place,” said Ambassador Hultgård.

“I think that the message that we have heard with your ministry, honourable minister, and we have heard all this within a few other areas, there is focus in Sweden on Zambia I think it was clearly put by the head of the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) who was here a year ago before the pandemic, we did meet. And it was very clear from our heads at SIDA headquarters that we will not be able to survive in our relationship if anything more of this kind of major scandals would occur.”