MINISTRY of Health Permanent Secretary for administration Dr George Magwende has warned of stern action against anyone who will participate in corrupt practices during the recruitment process.

And Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency (ZAMMSA) Acting Director General Professor Peter Mwaba says the agency plans to partner with local and international companies to ensure local manufacturing of drugs.

Speaking when they featured on a special programme on Radio Phoenix, Friday, Dr Magwende warned that those seeking employment would not be recruited if found engaging in corrupt practices while officers from the ministry would be dealt with.

“I think we need to be very much alive to our times. Like I indicated we got used to that kind of behaviour or conduct but I can tell you and this we have shared over and over with our colleagues, anyone that will be found taking a bribe, taking money because he or she wants to help someone – first the person that he or she is attempting to help will not get the job straight away because that one is an accomplice. Then the one accepting that as an employee of the Ministry of Health will be dealt with seriously. We don’t take kindly to that behaviour and the president has been very categorical. Zambians voted against corruption why should we perpetuate the vice?” he asked.

“So any individual that actually whistleblows will be considered highly in this recruitment process because they will be helping to curb certain vices that have been going on. So we are not accepting the corruption. And actually to make the people comfortable, the recruitment committees at district level will involve the Anti-Corruption Commission as observers to observe that the process is going on correctly.”

And Dr Magwende assured that more recruitments would be called next year and other years to follow.

“Indeed in the health sector 11, 000 is not enough, but I can tell you that this is a very significant step in a progressive direction. We want more of course, but remember I indicated that the financial support for as at now can only allow us to accommodate that number. And remember this is just the beginning, next we will have another support, the other year we will have another support. So it is step by step and that is what I was actually telling my colleagues to say look for me we need to look at the fundamentals, are we making progress or not. Remember Rome was not built in one day,” he said.

“I wouldn’t really speak much to the actual figures. I think we will sit down with the Ministry of Finance, PSMD and Secretary to Cabinet. Remember, Ministry of Health is not the only ministry and health services are not the only services that Zambians need. So it’s a balancing game so we will have to sit down for us to be advised of what number will be given next year.”

He acknowledged that the country experienced a shortage of drugs in most health facilities.

“When it comes to the procurement of the commodities, yes we do concede we have not had the commodities in levels that you will be comfortable with but to say we have not had any commodities that is a misrepresentation. Drugs are very essential to our health care delivery and we have endeavoured to ensure that we provide adequate commodities in our facilities. Now the low levels that have been in our facilities for a couple of weeks, months have been because of this transformative or rather transition period. Remember we had to make changes at ZAMMSA because of what was happening,” Dr Magwende said.

“The other thing which we have done which is very interesting and this we need to sing it very loudly, one of the suppliers of the contract that was signed last year we renegotiated the prices on that contract to run for one year. Same commodities the prices were dropped and this government, the ministry of health is going to save $5 Million. And when you compare that at the current rate that is almost K100 million that could have been used not for me, not for you, not for our brothers in Kaputa but for selfish entities.”

Meanwhile, Dr Mwaba said ZAMMSA planned to partner with local and international companies to ensure local manufacturing of drugs.

“We opt to partner with one of the locals or international companies so that we start making these drugs in the country. We cannot survive on drugs that are imported because any turbulence, Russia Ukraine war, we may not have the supply chain. So these are some of the strategies together with the ministry of health we have embarked on as ZAMMSA; one, improve the procurement, two improve the storage, three distributions up to the last mile and commodity security,” he said.

And Dr Mwaba assured that the shortage of drugs would soon be normalised as drugs had started arriving in the country.

“The drugs arrived in ZAMMSA stores the day before yesterday. We had coartem, we had some ARVs, we had some lino products. We don’t distribute immediately because there is a problem we have to do quality assurance. As these drugs come in, first thing first is subject them to quality control. We do some drugs within ZAMMSA, others we send them to ZAMRA the regulatory authority so that they tell us ‘yes these products are okay, distribute’. Even if there is a shortage you cannot bypass quality assurance and so these drugs that are flowing in have been subjected to quality assurance. But the basic medicine that we need to save a life we shall have in most of the facilities by the close of next week,” said Dr Mwaba.