BIOMEDICAL Union of Zambia president Daniel Mwimbe says the accumulation of debt to suppliers of medicines by the Ministry of Health can be attributed to “pathetic” procurement process.

And Mwimbe has urged Health Minister Sylvia Masebo to quickly identify a new team she can work with because her ministry needs cleansing.

Commenting on revelations by University Teaching Hospital (UTH) Director of Clinical Care and Diagnostics services Dr Alex Makupe that the Ministry of Health currently owed suppliers of drugs about K2.2 billion, Mwimbe said the Ministry also owed health workers about K1 billion.

“The first thing is that the procurement process at the Ministry of Health has been very pathetic! That we should mention. Most of these accumulations of debt have been through these pathetic procurement processes, which have not favoured the Ministry in terms of their performance. Also, we are talking about a Ministry that has been through a lot of scandals. Most of the times we have sat with the Ministry of Health and they have mentioned to say they have a lot of debt and most of the debt was going towards what they mentioned yesterday which is the K2.2 billion,” Mwimbe said.

“But that is not the only debt that they have, even when you look at how much they owe their own personnel; it is another huge amount which is over a billion. We are talking about over a billion in terms of what they owe workers.”

Mwimbe questioned how the Ministry of Health could owe suppliers of drugs K2.2 billion when the Ministry was always allocated funds to procure drugs.

“When you look at how they accumulated that debt, there have been a lot of questions that we have asked to try and find out why they should go into that debt. It is very unfortunate that we could accumulate such a debt as a Ministry because every year there is always an allocation for such procurement. There is an allocation for drugs. When that allocation is given to the Ministry of Health there is an allocation for drugs, hospital commodities, all that,” he said.

“But for them to accumulate all that debt, what are the expenditures that they have been making that have made them not concentrate on the suppliers? Because I can agree there are so many suppliers that have complained. Some of them even stopped supplying commodities to the Ministry of Health because the debt was just too much and it was unsustainable to meet the demand from their side. To us we are saying it is very unfortunate that the Ministry of Health could land themselves into that.”

And Mwimbe urged Masebo to quickly engage a new team and to stay away from the people that contaminated the Ministry.

“We have always been mentioning that all MOH needs is cleansing of the whole Ministry. For us we want to warn the new Minister that she should try by all means to stay away from the people that contaminated the Ministry of Health. The President has made it clear that the Ministry of Health has had too many scandals and all it needed was an overhaul cleansing. The entire Ministry needs to be put in order, not the current team that is working. The current team has had too many deals, by the time the Minister will realise she has gone into serious scandals, she will never even understand,” said Mwimbe.

“That is why for us the best is, let her try by all means to find a new team she can work with because all these are just some of the revelations, there are a lot of revelations that will come up. So, for us we are calling upon the Minister to quickly start assembling a new team, put in a new team. So many people were labelled as whistle-blowers there, let her sit with those whistle-blowers and if possible, understand how was this information getting to them? How can we work together and ensure the Ministry of Health is put in a perfect place to serve the people of Zambia? Not what is happening there where only few people have benefited from those deals. These are some of the scandals we need to avoid. But we see the Minister probably taking a very slow pace in bringing in a new team that can help her understand. Of course, she has to use the same old team to get some of the revelations but she needs to quickly identify the team she can work with to cleanse that Ministry.”