NEWLY-APPOINTED Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency (ZAMMSA) Board has resolved to send the entire agency management on forced leave, pending investigations of some serious anomalies at the institution.

And Health Minister Sylvia Masebo says the ZAMMSA Board has been instructed to immediately look at the matter in which Honeybee drugs were erroneously distributed to two health facilities.

Speaking at a media briefing, Tuesday, ZAMMSA Board chairperson Dr Anna Chifungula said Professor Peter Mwaba would act as interim Director General to oversee the affairs of the Agency.

“At our first Board meeting that we had, Mr Kennedy Saili who is from the Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia was appointed as the vice chairperson. The Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency board held its first meeting today and wishes to assure members of the public of swift development and implementation of measures that will ensure continuous flow of the much needed quality medicines and medical supplies. These are matters which have caused great concern to the citizenry,” said Dr Chifungula.

“In view of what has happened in the recent past, the Board has with immediate effect resolved to place the entire ZAMMSA management team on forced leave pending investigations of some of the serious anomalies at the Agency including the distribution of defective medicines supplied by Honeybee Pharmacy. Appointed Professor Peter Mwaba as interim Director General to oversee the affairs of the Agency until the Board recruits a substantive Director General. The interim Director General will, with the support of our Board, help to set up interim management team that will help restore public confidence and safety of citizens as soon as possible. We will conduct a full audit of the Agency. We will keep the public informed of any further developments.”

Meanwhile, Masebo said the ZAMMSA Board had been instructed to immediately look at the matter in which Honeybee drugs were erroneously distributed to two health facilities.

“I had a meeting with the Board and they simply told me that it was an error of the system or is it human error? I just cannot imagine what could have happened. One of the issues that the Board will be looking at will be to investigate so that we can have true picture of exactly what transpired. It is very hard for people to think that drugs which are supposed to be in quarantine can end up being distributed. The question I ask myself is what else is supposed to happen in such an institution? It means there is a serious lapse and we need to get to the bottom of this. This should never happen again. So the Board was instructed to immediately look at the issue of the drugs that were erroneously distributed to Kasama and Kabwe,” Masebo said.

“The Board has also been directed to ensure that we get the drugs as quickly as possible in the next few weeks. The other issue that has been tasked to the Board is to immediately begin to operationalise the establishment of the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies fund which will be used to procure drugs. We do not want shortages. This government has put enough resources for procurement of medicines. The UPND Government has increased the budgetary allocation for procurement of medicines and medical supplies from K1.4 Billion in 2021 to K3.4 Billion in the 2022 National Budget. We have a lot of stakeholders with goodwill and we do not want to take this goodwill for granted and become careless.”

Masebo said there was need to change the current impression of ZAMMSA because it was embarrassing to the state.

“We also have other issues at ZAMMSA to deal with procurements. One of the other issues we have asked them to look at is we get the full story of what has been happening there. I wish to remind the Board members that your appointment places a huge responsibility on your shoulders as the Zambian people have high expectations. They look forward to restoration of confidence in the supply chain of medicines and medical supplies. I have no doubt that the men and women that have been appointed into this Board have vast experience in the public service,” said Masebo.

“I am convinced that you are all equal to the task and will ensure that Zambians are assured of an efficient and effective supply chain system. They want to have access to safe medicines and medical supplies in all health facilities. We need to change the narrative of ZAMMSA. The current narrative is an embarrassment to the state and an apology is not sufficient enough. We have to act swiftly. The Board will be chaired by Ms Anna Chifungula, former Auditor General. Other members are representative from the Ministry responsible for of Finance Ms Mwaka Mukubesa, representative from Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia Mr Kennedy Saini, representative from Civil society organisation affiliated to health Ms Karen Sichinga, representative from Attorney General, Mr Joseph Simachela, representative from Ministry responsible for Health Dr Alex Makupe.”