Editor's Comment

Stop the thieves

MISAPPLICATION and theft of resources in any sector of the economy only work against public good and the general well-being of citizens.
In public institutions such as hospitals, institutions of learning and government departments, among others, taxpayers’ money is used to procure necessary supplies, as well as to ensure that all services that people need are not only available, but also accessible to everyone.
When patients go to a public hospital, for instance, they expect to be provided with quality service because they know they are contributing towards the effective and efficient running of such an establishment through the various taxes they pay.
Therefore, the news that Kafue General Hospital is currently at the centre of an HIV test-kit scandal is disturbing. Some senior members of staff have allegedly been instructing junior officers to manipulate stock control cards to cover up theft of test kits and other laboratory commodities.
A whistle-blower who made this revelation concerning the test-kit theft at the health institution deserves commendation because he has proved to be a person of high moral principles and wants to see development in the health sector.
Those involved in the scam should know that by stealing HIV test kits, CD4 reagents, syphilis test kits, gloves, injections, malaria test kits, and blood and urine containers, among other hospital supplies, are actually inflicting more pain upon patients who seek their services.
Will health personnel continue contributing to the death of productive citizens through their greed? The informer’s concern (which is actually the people’s concern) and his or her revelation about what is happening at Kafue General Hospital should be taken seriously by concerned authorities.
They should conduct an extensive investigation into the alleged scandal so that culprits are brought to book. The fact that the auditors who recently checked the institution’s records found ‘a lot of issues on the stock control cards’, is a basis on which the investigative wings should anchor their probe.
Government and its stakeholders have always been concerned about pilferage of medicines and equipment from public health centres by some individuals who supply these to private chemists and clinics, some of which operate illegally.
It is such thefts which call for prompt action and stringent measures aimed at curbing activities that disadvantage citizens in so far as public service delivery is concerned.
Quick action by authorities in matters of this nature also evokes confidence among the people and Government’s partners, including international aid donors, with regard to the operations of health institutions.
Many people still remember that a couple of years ago, foreign aid for government health projects in the country was frozen after allegations of corruption in the sector.
The governments of the Netherlands and Sweden suspended aid after a whistle-blower alerted the Anti-Corruption Commission that over US$2 million had allegedly been embezzled at the Ministry of Health.
Such a huge amount of money could have gone a long way in helping the poor countrywide. Government – concerned about the plight of the masses, for whom donor aid is meant – did well to work hard, and very quickly, to restore transparency in the sector to ensure foreign aid resumed.
It is clear that taxpayers who contribute to the smooth operations of health institutions are both those within Zambia and those outside. It is, therefore, unacceptable for any health worker to misuse people’s money or steal commodities and medicines that they provide, through paying taxes, for the citizens’ well-being.
Health personnel should take a lead in promoting moral values in the country. As they work to restore and sustain good health among citizens, honesty, hard work and integrity should be part of their culture. We need all-round development from and for healthy citizens.

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