Editor's Comment

Speed up MOH graft probe

NEWS that operations of the procurement division at the Ministry of Health have been suspended to pave way for investigations comes amid calls for a thorough process that will restore the ministry’s integrity and its revered position as a beacon of hope for anyone seeking medical care. The news comes barely three days after investigators besieged Ndeke House to search for documents related to corrupt deals at the ministry.
Over the last couple of months, the ministry steadily lost reputation after being marred with allegations of suspected corrupt practices over purchase of ambulances and expired drugs among other scandals. Queries cited in the latest Auditor General’s report further resulted in officers from the ministry being summoned before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The Ministry of Health delegation that was led by Permanent Secretary for Technical Services Lackson Kasonka appeared before PAC for the third time yesterday. In a rather unexpected disclosure, the delegation blamed the scandals at the ministry to a ‘possible invisible political hand’ influencing some procurement and awarding of contracts. Closure of the procurement department for three days now to enable officers from Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), and Zambia Police Service to access documents and interrogate staff in the ministry’s subdivision is necessary to get to the bottom of the scandals at the ministry. It is also good that procurement officers at the ministry have been sent home to pave way for investigations. This will prevent any possible interference with evidence for alleged corruption. It is hoped that employees at the ministry will not in any way shield some people. They should instead provide the necessary support to the law enforcement agencies to help them get to the bottom of the matter within the shortest possible time. This is to avoid paralysing the operations of the ministry. The role of the ministry in providing healthcare cannot be overstated. The procurement division in particular is key to ensuring that all the necessary health-related procurements are done in good time to enhance delivery of quality healthcare. Given the important role the procurement unit plays in the ministry, it is hoped that investigations will be concluded in good time to allow the ministry to revert to its normal operations. But, most importantly, it is hoped that sanity will be restored at the ministry to not only deliver quality service but to inspire confidence in Zambians. As it is, the ministry’s image has been dented by the many scandals associated with it. Until those responsible are brought to book, the shadow of corruption will keep on lingering around the ministry. It is, therefore, important for those charged with the responsibility to investigate the scandals at the ministry to leave no stone unturned. Those that will be found wanting should be made to face the wrath of the law. This is the only way to send a strong deterrent message to would-be offenders. It cannot certainly be business as usual when resources meant to benefit Zambians are diverted into the pockets of few greedy individuals. Corruption is a cancer which if not nipped in the bud can erode the moral fibre of society. How can someone in their right frame of mind subject precious and irreplaceable lives to expired drugs and condoms? Such individuals are a danger to society and must be confined within the four walls of incarceration facilities. They should not be allowed to loiter freely on the streets. It is, therefore, hoped that at the end of investigations those found wanting will be given the befitting punishment. It is also hoped that this will happen sooner than later.

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