MINISTRY of Health Permanent Secretary for Technical Services Dr Kennedy Malama says the University Teaching Hospital will not hesitate to evict any tenant who will fail to pay rentals going forward.
The latest Auditor General’s report has revealed that the institution failed to collect rentals amounting to K1,336,231 from 40 tenants renting offices and land spaces belonging to the University Teaching Hospital.
Speaking when he appeared before the Committee on Parastatal Bodies, Tuesday, Dr Malama assured PAC that going forward, UTH might even appear in the papers for evicting owing tenants.
“This is a real situation and these tenants were coming with different justifications. Some of them of course we have not put it in our submission but they were also alluding to the financial constraints they were facing and that their businesses had slumped and they would do good. It is clear that UTH knew that some of these tenants were not paying but through that engagement, it was difficult to get them to pay. But now they have been directed that we should not wait for the Auditor General’s office. I think we put those charges for a reason and those resources are supposed to support the hospital in its running,” Dr Malama said.
“We can assure you that moving forward, you may even see UTH in the papers because some people will be evicted if they do not pay. When you engage them, some take it for granted and they forget about paying but we have also learnt a lesson that we need to be aggressive so that these tenants can contribute to the running of the hospital. Some of these tenants have been there for as long as 15 years plus, so it is an issue of us adhering to the agreement.”
And Zambezi West member of parliament Vumango Musumali wondered why the University Teaching Hospital had recorded many irregularities.
“Going by the title, he is trained to look after patients or core business of the hospital, which is to look at the treatment of patients, not these operative matters. I think the buck rests mainly on the accounting staff who is well vested with payment systems. Can you assure this committee, otherwise what we have observed is that it will still incur in the next budget? Why don’t you charge those responsible for the act? I think by this, we can stem all these irregularities at the hospital,” he said.
In response, Dr Malama argued that doctors needed to be supported when given the responsibility to manage hospitals, just like any other profession.
“Certain law institutions are managed by lawyers. Not all doctors may be found wanting in managing hospitals. Even in this country, we have very excellent doctors who are managing hospitals and performing clinical duties well. Doctors who have gone to do post graduate, in their training they do administration. I would not say doctors are not fit to manage hospitals. I think we need to look at individuals and see how doctors can be supported just like any other profession,” he said.
“Where my senior medical superintendent has not acted timely, I will charge them and I expect them to do the same. Moving forward, the senior medical superintendent will be proactive so that when issues of irregularities [occur] in hospitals, they must quickly take action. We totally agree with the committee that we could have done better in terms of timely action. We will do better so that when the audit is done, we must not see some of these cases.”
Meanwhile, several committee members raised concern that the Hospitals issued 244 accountable imprest in amounts totalling K11,273,482 to several officers to undertake activities such as review of financial reports and printing of scheme cards without authority from the Secretary to the Treasury as cited in the AG report.
In response, Dr Malama said he could not defend any wrong, and that appropriate action was taken.
“We cannot defend a wrong and we are all aware as public service workers that when imprest is issued, it should be returned within 48 hours. Any digression to that becomes an offence. That is why you have seen that as Permanent Secretary, I can only charge the senior medical superintendent. The fact that the hospital failed to perform its critical role this matter reaches the permanent secretary,” said Dr Malama.
“I charge the senior medical superintendent and it is incumbent upon the senior medical superintendent to take action against those he supervises. I do not expect anyone not to be aware of the audit cycle process and that is why sometimes you see like we are over charging people. However, we cannot continue with business as usual. By and large, I will confess that we are aware but we just need to change our attitude and ensure that we adhere with what is expected.”