FORMER Medical Stores Limited managing director Chikuta Mbewe says he is privileged to have served the institution for four years and he will now focus on family now that he is out of the public service.
In an interview, Mbewe, who was fired by the board on Monday, said he believed he had helped strengthen systems at Medical Stores.
“I don’t know how to put it but otherwise just to recognise that you know, this is the end of the road and of course I went to Medical Stores against a very specific background to do with the issues, as you know, we had a very difficult task at Medical Stores in terms of accountability. So, my understanding is that a decision was made for me to move to Medical Stores because we needed to ensure that we put systems to improve accountability of supplies. We are coming from a very difficult Office of the Investigator General (OIG) report by the Global Fund, so obviously we had that assignment to protect the resources for the people in short and that is through systems, and a cultural change in terms of the way we look after the supplies. So that was a very critical assignment and then also the issue to do with wastage, we were also generating a lot of wastage at MSL, some of it preventable because your worst crime is to expire something because you didn’t do basic stores management. So those are the type of things that we focused,” Mbewe said.
Mbewe said he considered himself lucky to have served the institution given the multitude of resources that it handles.
“I consider myself extremely lucky that I have stayed the last four years at Medical Stores and just professionally focused, building a team whose sole aim was to just make sure that this institution indeed truly remains very accountable to our people but much more also to the partners because if you look at the architecture of things that are now going into MSL, they have to do with partners, partners are supporting under PEPFAR, under Global Fund, so huge resources that are going into that institution. So you need to ensure that you are able to build that trust because trust is very important in a service like supply chain because you are entrusted with commodities,” he said.
Mbewe said he would use this time to focus on working hard and supporting his family.
“So for me, obviously it’s, you know I am out of the public system now and I have also a personal life to accomplish and really the priority is to support my family, work very hard, whatever engagement that I can have, the priority is to sustain my family and work as much as possible for them, so I think that’s the focus for me this time,” said Mbewe.
During a Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee session last month, Mbewe admitted that Honeybee-supplied substandard condoms and gloves 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 consumption given that they failed quality tests at Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS), further telling the committee that these items were still in circulation.
When asked who authorised the distribution, Mbewe told the committee that it was the permanent secretary at Ministry of Health, without naming which of the two he was referring to.
There was massive public outcry after this revelation which subsequently led to the recall of the said Honeybee-supplied gloves and condoms.
Former health minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya and his permanent secretary for administration Kakulubelwa Mulalelo were also fired.