PHARMACIST Jerome Kanyika says the newly appointed Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency (ZAMMSA) Board is not competent enough to address some technical challenges at that institution.

But ZAMMSA Board chairperson Dr Anna Chifungula says those questioning the credibility of the Board must direct their concerns to the Minister, who is the appointing authority.

In an interview, Kanyika said it was unfortunate that ZAMMSA was being spearheaded by a medical doctor who was not involved in its daily operations.

“The person who distributed Honeybee drugs was not a pharmacist but a medical doctor. But who was fired at the end of the day by doing the correct thing? It was a pharmacist. We should know that these pharmacists are under the supervision of a medical doctor and in this situation, a Minister himself who went out to flag off the distribution of those drugs. Two weeks ago, who distributed the Honeybee products, was it a pharmacist? The answer is no. We had an economist who was an acting MD at ZAMMSA,” Kanyika said.

“We have seen a lot of confidence by the donors and the EU had to push in funding to build storage facilities for drugs across the country. So you could see that we had a visionary leadership at first but were punished by the maneuvers of the politicians. Here comes today, we have a medical doctor who is an interim CEO for ZAMMSA. That is another insult to the profession of pharmacy if I can say so. And we can say that the board chairperson for ZAMMSA is supposed to understand and humble herself when we complain.”

Kanyika said the representation of pharmacists on the ZAMMSA Board was not enough.

“The commodities that are being dealt with at ZAMMSA are drugs and the pharmacists are supposed to be engaged accordingly. But what have we seen? We have seen arrogance from her and not even trying to understand. Just like I keep saying, the problems at ZAMMSA are not audit problems but are technical problems. You can check when Chikuta Mbewe was Director at ZAMMSA, for three years, there were no audit queries concerning how the institution was being run,” he said.

“Why is it today that we are sidelining the pharmacists? That is not the way it is supposed to be. We are hearing that some people who are part of the board are people who were cleaning up money for PF. So these are some of the challenges that we have to face. What credibility does this Board have in terms of saving the lives of the Zambian people if we are hearing that some people have this background of not being dishonest? The representation of pharmacists is not enough on the Board. There is only one pharmacist on the Board which is not enough.”

Kanyika insisted ZAMMSA had technical problems and not audit challenges.

“An institution is being managed by the CEO and for me, I can say that we have a wrong CEO. The Board does not do a day to day running of an institution but the management is that one that does. As you know, ZAMMSA is registered as a wholesale by ZAMRA. According to the law, it prohibits anyone who is not a pharmacist to run an institution that deals with wholesale, pharmacy, retaining and manufacturing of drugs who is not a pharmacist,” said Kanyika.

“Here we are, at ZAMMSA, we have chosen a medical doctor to run the institution which is against the law. So these are some of the issues that need to be addressed. And the pharmacists were supposed to guide the Board but there is no guidance at all. So we are moving from one problem to another problem. So we need to face these problems head on and we need to be honest among ourselves. We should not try to say these people failed and that but we need to analyse critically. There has never been a pharmacist who has distributed fake drugs to the people.”

But when called for a reaction, Dr Chifungula directed any concerns regarding the caliber of the board members to Health Minister Sylvia Masebo.

“Me telling you off cuff I might not have all the issues at my finger tips to answer you properly. So if you could kindly send a written query to ZAMMSA and we should be able to respond to you and to the satisfaction of those that are sort of querying this. Because some of them like for the credibility, if he feels that there are such issues coming to the fore, the Minister I think should be directed to answer those questions who can pass over the information accordingly,” said Dr Chifungula.