Zimbabwe: ZACC Probes Drug Thefts At Hospitals

20 January 2020

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) is now monitoring public hospitals and clinics to curb thefts and ensure drugs are not diverted to the black market. This follows checks that were done at the country's drug procurement and supply entity, the National Pharmaceutical Company (Natpharm).

The Government has been making strenuous efforts to supply medicines to public hospitals and clinics, but there were suspicions that some of the drugs were being diverted to the black market.

Through its Prevention and Corporate Governance Unit, ZACC is targeting Parirenyatwa, Chitungwiza and Sally Mugabe (formerly Harare Central) hospitals, among other public hospitals and clinics.

In a statement at the weekend, the commission said the operation was an extension of ongoing Natpharm compliance checks on drugs.

"The objective of the operation is to ensure that there are no leakages and abuse in the distribution of drugs to hospitals," said ZACC.

"The operation is meant to bring sanity to hospitals and improve service delivery and stamp out corruption that has seen patients in some parts of the country being made to pay huge amounts of money for drugs which are sourced by Government funds or donated by the Global Fund, WHO and other international partners.

"The compliance unit is tracking the path of distribution of such drugs from the time they leave Natpharm until the drugs are administered to patients."

ZACC said it was testing the effectiveness and reliability of the distribution system to ensure that it was not open to abuse.

Some health workers, it said, were being found selling essential drugs which were in short supply in formal channels.

"Some doctors are prescribing alternative drugs which are not in stock and refer patients to their pharmacies where sometimes patients are forced to pay exorbitant prices in US dollars," said ZACC.

Other areas to be covered by the operation include disposal of expired drugs which are being sold on the streets.

ZACC is seeking to have the hospitals adopt electronic systems of drugs storage and administration to avoid the manipulation and abuse of the stock card system.

According to the Head of the Operation, Mrs Clara Nyakotyo, a similar operation has been conducted in provincial, district and mission hospitals in Mashonaland Central and Manicaland provinces.

There are Government plans to capacitate local pharmaceutical manufacturers, establish more manufacturing plants, including toll manufacturing and bonded warehouses, to improve availability and affordability of medicines and medical sundries in both the public and private sector.

Meanwhile, ZACC has warned senior executives in public institutions to stop victimising their subordinates for assisting it with information that can help to investigate possible cases of corruption.

Targeted subordinates were either being summarily dismissed or redeployed to other departments without following due process.

ZACC said it felt betrayed by the actions of such executives which amounted to unfair labour practice and abuse of office.

A case in point is that of eight ZESA Holdings workers who were fired last year for unlawful job action, breaching of the Official Secrets Act and insubordination.

The workers were however, recently reinstated by the new management at the power utility after they were victimised for outing corruption tendencies that exposed some shoddy deals.

ZACC spokesperson Commissioner John Makamure said last week that they were overwhelmed with reports of victimisation of workers in public institutions for assisting the anti-graft body.

"The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission is inundated with reports from the general public in which there is evidence of victimisation by authorities in the public sector," said Comm Makamure.

"What is utter disturbing is a situation where an entity is visited by the Zacc, either for the purposes of conducting systems audit, investigations or both and later on, some of the employees are served with suspension letters or are advised that the department is in the process of redeploying them to other departments.

"The procedure is riddled with a lot of questions as to whether or not the authorities are aware that there is a Labour Act Chapter 28.01, Statutory Instruments and various regulations, which legally guide any decision-making by them.

"However, such decisions are promptly arrived at just to catch the targeted employees unawares, leave them confused for some time and pounce on the hapless individuals.

"One would rush to think these are simple labour matters, when in essence it is corruption masked in what looks like labour issues.

"If this sinister practice is allowed to persist, then going forward, nobody will be willing to assist either the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission or Zimbabwe Republic Police during investigations. The continued victimisation of innocent employees leaves nobody safe under the caprices of the vastly corrupt bosses."

Comm Makamure said the problem was being aided by human resources departments that allowed people to be reassigned without justification.

"The second question is how on earth do the human resources departments, charged with the redeployment of employees, accept and redeploy staff without demanding reasons why the redeployments have to be done," he said.

"One would have thought that the human resources departments should turn down such unscrupulous ways of subjecting employees to unprofessional movements to other departments. In any case, the employees are transferred without following any legal procedure as required in the Labour Act and supporting regulations."

This, Comm Makamure said, amounted to unfair labour practices, which is also a form of abuse of office.

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