Zimbabwe: Zacc Probes Covid-19 Tests Scam

27 January 2021

Investigations Editor

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has opened investigations into laboratories and individuals accused of issuing certificates declaring a person free of Covid-19 without carrying out any tests, thus allowing potentially infected people to travel and interact with others, allowing the virus to spread.

Those with information that could help in the investigations should contact investigators, the commission's deputy chairperson Mr Kuziva Murapa has said.

There have been reports that at least one private laboratory and some State laboratories, or at least staff at these laboratories, have been issuing certificates and sets of fake results without doing the required test.

The Herald and The Sunday Mail sent reporters to seek such certificates and so establishing that results were being cooked up in favour of travellers and other people who need to travel outside the country.

The Sunday Mail reporters went undercover and were asked to pay US$45 for a certified negative Covid-19 result at a private laboratory, Klosad Clinical Diagnostics Lab in Avondale. Recently, a Herald reporter was issued with a certificate at Chitungwiza Hospital showing he had tested negative to Covid-19, when no test had been done. He paid US$20 for the service.

The Herald report exposed the fake Covid-19 results scam at Chitungwiza Central Hospital and Sally Mugabe Hospital.

Some suspects have since been charged and the Ministry of Health and Child Care is processing disciplinary proceedings in terms of the labour law.

Most results are tampered with to show the clients will be Covid-19 negative when no test would have been done. There are suspicions that some laboratory staff may go further and issue a fraudulent certificate showing favourable results.

Mr Murapa said, based on media reports, ZACC took an interest and launched investigations into the scandal.

"Although we have not yet received a formal report, we have taken interest in the matter and opened investigations to establish the truth. We cannot sit and relax while such corrupt elements break the law with impunity and put everyone at risk of contracting the virus through fake results.

"Investigations are underway and we appeal to all those with information that may help the investigator to contact us through our WhatsApp number or on www.zacconline/tipoff. If the informants want to remain anonymous, their protection is guaranteed," said Mr Murapa.

There is a report on social media, by someone claiming to be a Zimbabwean wishing to travel to East Africa, accusing at least one employee of Lancet Clinical Laboratories of soliciting for a bribe to alter a positive Covid-19 result to a negative result for a fee, although two subsequent tests showed the result was indeed negative, implying that the scam was to generate a fake positive result to get extra money to alter it to a true negative.

According to the testimony trending on social media, the Zimbabwean traveller went from Zambia to Harare on January 21 after testing negative to Covid-19. In Harare the traveller claims to have visited Lancet for a new Covid-19 test to travel to Ghana.

Results at Lancet showed the traveller had tested positive to Covid-19. But at the gate, an employee approached the traveller offering to alter the result to negative for a fee.

The traveller refused and went to Genau Laboratory and tested negative, which was the result used for travelling and then went to Accra where another test was done confirming the result at Genau in Zimbabwe.

Lancet Clinical Laboratories on Monday issued a statement saying internal investigations were underway to flush out the corrupt employee who approached the traveller.

"We take any allegations of attempted fraud seriously and have launched an internal investigation into the allegations that a member of our staff offered to change test results and we will issue a public statement once investigations are over.

"In the meantime, we would like to assure the public that our results come directly from our lab testing equipment and cannot be altered after the fact. There is no room for human error or trickery in the issuance of results once they are determined in the lab," reads the statement.

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