Two senior officers implicated in the Chikwawa District Hospital mattress scandal have been interdicted pending disciplinary action.
Hospital administrator Moses Jere and senior stores clerk Clement Kapesi are suspected of having a hand in the missing of 28 mattresses worth K1.5 million.
The two, who are on bail, are answering a charge of theft by public servant.
Speaking in an interview yesterday, Chikwawa district commissioner Fred Movete confirmed the interdiction but refused to comment further.
“The matter is going through legal and disciplinary procedures. However, I cannot divulge much information as the case is still ongoing and on the other hand issues of disciplinary are confidential,” he said.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said in an interview that as a line ministry, they are following the issue with keen interest.
“Due to decentralisation that led to dissolution of powers, all disciplinary issues are now being handled by the office of the district commissioner. However, we are an interested party as a line ministry and we are following the issue with keen interest,” he explained.
An inside source from the hospital narrated what happened on the day: “I was on night duty on November 20 when the incident happened. That night we had a female patient who was supposed to be taken to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital for further treatment. But we failed to do so because we were told that the ambulance had developed a fault (headlamps had stopped functioning) and that it would be difficult to travel at night.
“However, at around 10pm, we were shocked when we saw senior officers using the same ambulance to transport mattresses from the hospital.”
According to the source, the mattresses were a donation from United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).
“The hospital received a donation of over 1000 mattresses and 30 bicycles from Unicef for the district hospital and its health centres but the mattresses were just lying idle in a warehouse,” said the source.
In an earlier interview, Chikwawa Police Station spokesperson Foster Benjamin said 12 officers were being interrogated over the issue. Police have since recovered about 25 mattresses.
A visit to the hospital by The Nation crew last week revealed that some patients sleep on the floor in most of the wards due to lack of mattresses.
Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) executive director George Jobe demanded an immediate dismissal of the officers to serve as a lesson to others. n