Govt launches probe on pharmacies at hospitals

GOVERNMENT has, with immediate effect, suspended operations of private service providers such as pharmacies at state-run hospitals and has launched investigations into their ownership and operations amid allegations of corruption.

BRIDGET MANANAVIRE

The development comes at a time the government is still smarting from a US$60 million corruption scandal involving the supply of medical equipment and Covid-19 material.

The scandal has since seen local representative of Drax International SGL — the company at the centre of the tender controversy — being arrested alongside former Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo.

Health sector sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that some hospitals in the country, particularly Chitungwiza Central Hospital, which Moyo used to run, had entered into private-public partnerships with pharmaceutical companies, laboratories and radiology services, making public hospital services expensive for the communities they should be serving.

Moyo has long been accused of privatising Chitungwiza Hospital before he left in 2018 after his appointment to the ministerial post.

The former Health minister is facing charges of abuse of office in relation to a multi-million-dollar corruption scandal in the procurement of Covid-19 medical supplies and protective clothing from Drax International LLC.

Apart from Moyo, National Pharmaceutical Company of Zimbabwe (NatPharm) bosses were also arrested, together with Drax representative in Zimbabwe, Delish Nguwaya.

“The Acting Minister of Health and Child Care (Amon Murwira) is requesting (1) details of all private service providers at all government health institutions (2) to have their services suspended while investigations on their ownership and authentication of the private-public partnerships (PPSs) arrangement are being instituted,” acting permanent secretary in the Health and Child Care ministry Gibson Mhlanga wrote in a memo dated July 20 to state-run health centres.

“These service providers referred to include but are not limited to (a) pharmacies (b) pathological laboratories (c) radiological services (d) canteens and others. Please submit the information soonest.”

The memo is copied to provincial medical directors and respective chief executive officers of the health institutions.Health ministry public relations manager Donald Mujiri on Wednesday confirmed the memo when contacted for comment.

“Yes, I confirm the memo,” Mujiri said without shedding more light on the issue.The operations of private service providers such as pharmaceutical services at public hospitals have always invited scrutiny on the awarding of such tenders as patients failed to access medicines at public hospitals, but from the pharmacies.

Moyo was arrested and charged with criminal abuse of office over the awarding of a US$60 million contract to Drax that allegedly sold supplies to the government at inflated prices.

According to court papers, Moyo allegedly awarded a multi-million-dollar tender to Drax International LLC, headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, which was concluded without the consent of the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.

The scandal came at a time when health professionals are on strike, demanding US dollar salaries.