In our editorial opinion of yesterday, we showed the contrast in a procurement scandal in Malawi and in Zambia. This is a matter where Malawians are complaining over that government’s decision to award a US$2.2 million ambulance supply tender to Grandview International of Zambia. We learnt that while Malawians were objecting to the procurement of ambulances at US$63,000 per unit, Zambia spent US$288,000 on the same vehicles with the same basic specifications.
As this debate rages on, we have observed that some people are trying to use the Grandview case in Malawi to divert people’s attention from the scandals at the Ministry of Health in Lusaka. This is very unfortunate. We are not here to launder Grandview. We are the same organisation that reported the US$42 million fire tender scandal. We are also the same people who sounded the alarm around 2015 when government was making a consideration to award that tender to Grandview International. And in 2017 when Zambians finally woke up to protest as the fire trucks were being unveiled, we told them it was too late. When we wrote against Grandview, there was nothing personal, a wrong had been committed by our government and the story needed to be told.
To this day, some Zambians react very negatively at the mention of Grandview, and we note that this effect is spilling over to Malawi. But there is a challenge that comes with such a preconception because it blinds the population from new cases of impropriety involving other companies. Here is an example: in 2019 when the Ministry of Health awarded contracts for the supply of Health Centre Kits to HoneyBee Pharmacy, Artemis Pharmaceuticals and Pharmanova, some people approached us with information that the owners of Pharmanova were the same owners of Grandview International, which was behind the controversial fire trucks tender.
But when we looked at the tender documents of the three companies, it was clear in black and white that despite the fact that it got the smallest contract, Pharmanova was the only company that met the requirements for the award of the Ministry of Health tender. Artemis Pharmaceuticals had financial audit queries and they also did not have the required wholesale licences, while HoneyBee was the dirtiest as they were not even a registered company at PACRA.
Clearly, those who pointed us towards Pharmanova wanted to divert the attention from the illegalities surrounding HoneyBee and Artemis. For sure, many people in Zambia want to read more scandals involving Grandview or companies linked to it because of the alleged fire tender corruption. But look at what has come out of these companies! If we did not act vigilantly to expose the corrupt activities around HoneyBee Pharmacy, Zambians would not have known about the toxic drugs that they have supplied to the Ministry of Health. Today, Zambians are aware that government is on course to lose US$17 million worth of medical supplies because the Ministry of Health overlooked the procurement rules.
Our point is that watchdog institutions must examine suspicious government procurement cases without any preconceptions. If Grandview is involved in any form of corruption in the Malawi ambulances tender, they must be exposed and the contract must be terminated. If Malawians feel another company is offering a better deal than Grandview, the Malawian government must do as demanded by the citizens of that country. But, like we stated yesterday, whatever they do, it should not be because of the fire tender scandal in Zambia.
Our view is that some unscrupulous people in the name of ‘whistleblowers’ are trying to divert people’s attention from the HoneyBee scandal in Zambia where a pharmaceutical company has supplied toxic drugs to the government. Again, we have nothing against the owners of HoneyBee Pharmacy. If they put their house in order and meet the requirements for the award of a government tender in future, we will defend and support them. But until then, we will continue to tell the story of their corrupt activities without any distractions from Malawi.
We will end by sharing with our brothers and sisters in Malawi a few things we have discovered in our line of duty. In procurement scandals, we have learnt that many ‘whistleblowers’ are interested parties sponsored by companies that lose a given government tender. Playing along with such ‘whistleblowers’ is not fighting corruption but aiding another entity that has probably lost a corruption contest. Corrupt people are very corrupt-minded and they know the art of using corruption to sway public opinion.