ZAMBIA Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency (ZAMMSA) Board chairperson Dr Anna Chifungula says some of the directors at the institution who were involved in scandals have been asked to exculpate themselves.

In February, the ZAMMSA Board resolved to send the entire agency management on forced leave, pending investigations of some serious anomalies at the institution, including the distribution of defective medicines supplied by Honeybee Pharmacy.

In an interview, Dr Chifungula said some people found wanting had been given exculpatory letters.

She, however, said those who were sent on forced leave and had not been found wanting, would be reinstated.

“Those who were involved in some scandals have been charged, they have been asked to exculpate themselves. Some of them have exculpated themselves, some of them are yet to do so. But those who were sent on forced leave and have not been found wanting, they have not been written anything. Those are coming back. There were only a few who were sent on forced leave, it was mostly directors the ones who were heading the particular sections where the issuance of those drugs were. Those are the ones who were charged to pave way for investigations, those investigations were done and they are over, those who were found wanting have been written exculpatory letters,” Dr Chifungula said.

When asked if the absence of management had affected the procurement of drugs, she responded in the negative.

“There is already a running management. Remember when those paved way for investigations, there was an acting director general who is running the institution together with the other managers. That institution has more than 300 people and it is only a few that went, so it is still operating. There is nothing that has been disturbed after instituting those investigations as to why those drugs that were quarantined were issued out. Otherwise, the system is there, it is running. It is just that with the added responsibility now of procurement, it is now bigger and in expanding we now have to work at recruiting more people so that, that responsibility can be well catered for,” she responded.

Dr Chifungula said some people at the Agency would be asked to re-apply for their positions.

“Very soon, we will also be advertising for all the jobs there and some of the people who are working there, some will have to reapply [for] their position in accordance with what is required in the new job descriptions. So, we may be needing a bit more pharmacists, and other types of qualifications. We have actually done a lot and we are in the middle now looking at the structure, we are doing the structure now because since the ZAMMSA was created, they didn’t look at the staffing, the number of people that are supposed to be in employment there, so all they did was to transfer the old people, the same establishment to new board without looking at what the board had suggested,” she said.

“I think there was a new structure that was supposed to be put in place, especially in view of the fact that ZAMMSA was going to now assume the issue of procurement. So, which means the establishment should have increased according to the new ZAMMSA act, which was not done then. So, the same old people on the old structures, they just moved. And there was a need to look at the job descriptions of people there in accordance with the act. They sought some kind of approval to move everyone on the old structure to the new structure without looking at the qualifications of the people who were there and their capabilities. So, that is what we are looking at the moment. Other issues have been resolved.”

Meanwhile, Dr Chifungula said the process of beefing up hubs in the provinces was underway.

“The establishment now is likely to be quite reasonable because even in the provinces, we have only seven hubs and we have ten provinces so most of the provinces are yet to have a hub where ZAMMSA is able to send drugs to those places and dispatch them from there. Right now, the hubs are very few. I think we have one in Kasama, Kabwe, Chipata, Kabompo and Mongu. So, we need to beef them up so that when medicines require to be accessed, they don’t have to travel to Lusaka. That process we are almost done as well. We gave ourselves up to 10th of April which is to finish this and from there advertise for the jobs,” said Dr Chifungula.