CHIEF Covid-19 coordinator Agnes Mahomva’s sudden removal from the Ministry of Health and Child Care after a short-lived tenure as permanent secretary was the culmination of fierce clashes with Health minister Obadiah Moyo and several other officials over her refusal to sanction irregular expenditure and tamper with lucrative tenders.
ANDREW KUNAMBURA/ TINASHE KAIRIZA
Mahomva, a vastly experienced medical doctor, was dramatically jettisoned from the ministry on Tuesday, after having served just over a year before a new role was created for her.
She was appointed permanent secretary in the ministry by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in April last year.Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda did not give reasons for Mahomva’s re-assignment to a seemingly temporary posting when he announced the decision on behalf of Mnangagwa on Tuesday.
The Zimbabwe Independent can now reveal a series of incidents leading to her removal, including dramatic personal confrontations with Moyo.
According to information at hand, Mahomva had a tumultuous tenure at the ministry where she was always at loggerheads with Moyo.
According to sources at the ministry, Mahomva showed no respect for the minister and always stood up to him in meetings, leading to bad blood between them.
Relations deteriorated severely at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic as the two viciously clashed on how to respond to the crisis.
“The two could not work together. They have been having serious fights at the ministry especially on the issue of how to handle the Covid-19 pandemic. They were pulling in completely different directions. She also had serious clashes with some senior directors in the ministry,” an official at the ministry said.
“She would scrutinise every document and wanted to have control of the ministry’s finances, accusing people of being corrupt.”
The source added that Mahomva also frequently clashed with former family-health director in the ministry Bernard Madzima, who was subsequently moved to head the National Aids Council as chief executive officer last month, as well as with the director of the Aids and Tuberculosis Unit, Owen Mugurungi, both of whom could not be reached for comment this week.
“The likes of Mugurungi and Madzima were no longer signatories of their divisional grants because she would want to go through every document to see if everything was in order. As you can see, there was no way she could have survived because she stepped on too many toes,” another source said.
“Then there is the issue of travel and subsistence allowances. There is a maximum set by Treasury, but the senior officials would demand more and she would refuse.”
Additionally, sources said, Moyo and Mahomva clashed viciously last week over the issue of relaxed working conditions for health personnel, commonly known as flexitime.
Flexitime was introduced as a result of a collective bargaining agreement in January 2019 to allow nurses and doctors to report for duty two or three times per week in view of low remuneration.
Moyo and Mahomva’s conflict over this issue arose after Cabinet, on May 5, decided to cancel the flextime following the declaration of the pandemic as a state of disaster by Mnangagwa.
Sources said Moyo on Tuesday last week had a meeting with members of the Health Apex Council — the umbrella representative body for health sector employees — where he assured them that flexitime would be maintained, notwithstanding the standing cabinet decision of May 5.
Barely 48 hours later, they also met with Mahomva, who told them there was no way flexitime could be upheld since the President had declared a national disaster.
Investigations further revealed that relations between Moyo and Mahomva deteriorated sharply last week after she cancelled tenders, which had been awarded to two companies, a local and a Chinese firm that specialises in solar energy (names supplied), for the supply of Covid-19 test kits.
She also cancelled a tender which had been awarded to a Harare tertiary institution.Sources privy to the developments said the solar company’s tender was cancelled because the company had allegedly brought invalidated kits, while the local company had no experience in this line of work. It also did not have banking details. The tertiary institute had failed to supply evidence of a bank guarantee as required when bidding for such tenders.
“She said no, we are dealing with a serious crisis and we need to be serious about it and cancelled the deals,” an official said.However, no sooner had Mahomva left the ministry than the tenders were awarded.
An official ministry document seen by the Independent, dated May 13, shows the two companies were among a list of firms that were immediately awarded the tenders on Wednesday, barely 24 hours after Mahomva’s abrupt removal.
“With her out of the ministry, you can guess what’s happening to documents,” a source said.Sources further said a spirited campaign to discredit her by some ministry officials had gathered momentum in the past three weeks.
“They basically went to the President to say she had failed to fulfil her key deliverables as permanent secretary. They also claimed she had not met procurement timelines and, as such, frustrated efforts to test more people than those already tested. They also accused her of being an activist on the payroll of some American-funded non-governmental organisation,” another source said.
“They also said since her appointment, she had not yet procured anything from funds disbursed by Treasury and, as such, only funds coming from donors were being used while she sat on Treasury allocations.”
Efforts to get comments from Mahomva were fruitless as she claimed to be locked in meetings on Wednesday and Thursday while she also did not respond to messages sent to her mobile number.
Moyo was not answering calls.