The Chiradzulu First Grade Magistrate’s court on Tuesday granted bail to the district health officer (DHO) Gift Chinomba who was arrested on Monday over allegations that he had a hand in the missing of medical drugs worth about K10 million (about $15 600) at Chiradzulu District Hospital.
Chinomba is answering charges of theft by public servant contrary to Section 283 of the Penal Code.
On Tuesday, First Grade Magistrate Anne Chikhadzula released Chinomba after he paid K150 000 (about $220) bail bond and K150 000 non cash surety. He also submitted his travel documents and is expected to be reporting to the Southern Region Police Headquarters every Tuesday.
Chiradzulu Police Station spokesperson Victoria Chirwa, speaking in an interview on Wednesday, said Chinomba aged 30, from Mpowola Village in the area of Traditional Authority [T/A] Kuntumanji in Zomba will appear in court again on Thursday.
“He made a bail application and theft by public servant is a bailable offence,” explained Chirwa.
The DHO’s arrest follows that of the hospital’s pharmacy technician Isaac Bakali (27) and a driver Anderson Msuku (27) on April 29 this year.
“Following our investigations at the Regional Medical Stores (South), records indicate that it is the DHO who released money to buy drugs from there but the drugs never reached the hospital despite that they were collected and it is not known where they went,” added Chirwa
Speaking in an interview on May 3 when police arrested the first two suspects, Chirwa said they were arrested following a complaint made on April 1 that officials from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID) who released funds for the hospital to procure drugs visited the hospital to verify if drugs were indeed bought and had reached the intended beneficiaries. Unfortunately they found that the drugs never reached the hospital.
“They then went to the Regional Medical Stores [South] where records indicated that the drugs were bought and were collected by the hospital and the pharmacy technician’s signature was appearing as the one who collected the drugs on behalf of the hospital and the driver’s name was appearing as the one who was driving the vehicle that collected the drugs. This was despite the fact that at the hospital it was nowhere indicated that they had received the drugs,” she said.
In January this year, Minister of Health Peter Kumpalume made a chilling revelation that K5 billion (about $7.6 million) worth of medical drugs and supplies are stolen from public hospitals every year.
The K5 billion value represents over a third of the ministry’s annual drug budget of K17 billion (about $24.8million).
The revelation by the minister was consistent with what the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) said several years ago that 30 percent of funds in Malawi’s national budget are stolen annually.
In mid-December 2015, some of the country’s donors in the health sector said they were horrified by the extent of drug theft in public hospitals, warning that they were closely monitoring government’s accountability of drugs.
The donors, who included United States Agency for International Development (USaid) and DfID, threatened to shift support elsewhere if the country failed to rein back drug theft.
At the moment Malawi has a hotline through which people can anonymously tip off authorities about cases of theft of malaria drugs in a drive to curb pilferage. The hotlines 800 00 847 from land lines and 847 from mobile networks were jointly launched by the United States of America (USA) government through USaid and Global fund alongside Malawi Government