ZAMBIA Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency (ZAMMSA) Board chairperson Dr Anna Chifungula says the board’s decision to send the entire management on forced leave was the right thing to do.

Last week, the newly appointed ZAMMSA Board resolved to send the entire agency management on forced leave, pending investigations of some serious anomalies at the Agency, including the distribution of defective medicines supplied by Honeybee Pharmacy.

But some stakeholders, among them ActionAid Country Director Nalucha Ziba argued that the ZAMMSA board did not have the powers to take such an action.

Commenting on these remarks in an interview, however, Dr Chifungula said there was nowhere in the law where people were prevented from going on leave.

“We have not received any objection from anyone or any comment. So, if anyone has any concerns, then they can get hold of us and then we will explain. It is actually the right decision because this is for a brief period only, for three months. Within three months, we expect to recruit the right staff. If those that have gone on leave are the right staff, they will be retained because they will all be interviewed. There is nowhere in the law where people are prevented from going on leave. It is not as if anyone has been suspended, they are just on leave to pave way for the investigations that are currently being undertaken,” said Dr Chifungula.

“You know, there has been an issue of wrong drugs being issued, this Honeybee thing and a number of other issues like lack of medicines in hospitals. So, all these matters, we need at least a level head to deal with them. But for us, the most important thing is to make sure that medicines are available in hospitals and whoever was responsible for distributing those defective drugs is brought to book.”

In an interview recently, Ziba said the decision to send the ZAMMSA management on forced leave might have been done outside the confines of the law.

“ActionAid Zambia has noted the decision by the Board of the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supply Agency (ZAMMSA) to suspend the management of the agency, and subsequently appoint an interim Director General. As an organization, we are on record, having stated that ‘the supply of defective medicines is a crime against Humanity as it deals with the lives of many citizens, and thus it must be treated as such, a crime.’ The Ministry of Health, and the ZAMMSA have a responsibility to ensure that they supply standard medication in the execution of their mandate, the failure to do so should result in legal action that goes beyond mere suspensions,” said Ziba.

“As an organization, we are alive to the fact that the Board’s decision to suspend the management may have been done outside the confines of the law as the ZAMMSA Act does not provide for this, except in relation to the Director General. As ActionAid, we therefore call upon the Board of the ZAMMSA to review the decision to suspend management and ensure they follow laid down disciplinary procedures in dealing with this matter.”