They said in a meeting on Thursday with government officials and suppliers that it is taking too long to reform the Central Medical Stores (CMS) and government has not provided a conclusive response to their 2011 forensic audit on procurement which found massive irregularities that saw tenders being given to unqualified bidders who either supplied wrong and inadequate items. Some failed to deliver the items altogether, according to the audit.
But government says it handed over the audit results to ACB for further investigations.
Head of UKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Department for International Development (DfID) Sarah Sanyahumbi said since SWAp [Sector Wide Approach] programme is suspended, donors will continue procuring emergency drugs for the next 18 months without the local drug manufacturers.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is no agreement with government on procurement of drugs. The agreement to procure drugs at the moment is with Unicef and it is going to last for 18 months. We are in this situation at the moment. We have been discussing with government every year. Government promised to give a conclusive response to the audit by December last year but did not. We hope soon all our concerns will be addressed and have SWAp. We would like to have SWAp like in summer and procure drugs normally. We are not in an ideal world,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Sanyahumbi during the meeting which took place at DfID office in Lilongwe.
Under the normal SWAp procurement of drugs which pooled resources together from donors and government, the local manufacturers were involved.
Germany Financial Cooperation country director Dr Patrick Rudolph said the donors hoped that government would utilise the 18 months to reform the CMS and recapitalise it.
He said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are concerned about the lack of a comprehensive response to the audit.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Speaking on behalf of the local drug manufacturers, group chief executive officer for Sadm Pharmaceuticals David Bisnowaty accused the donors of trying to kill the local industry in the next 18 months.
Bisnowaty also accused Unicef of flouting MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s laws by not having the drugs in the emergency project tested by the Medicines and Poisons Board.
Said Bisnowaty: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Most of the drugs Unicef is procuring are coming from China and India. They subscribe to Chinese and Indian guidelines. They are not tested according to WHO [ World Health Organisation] guidelines. Unicef is bypassing the law of Malawi. The law of Malawi is that any drugs coming to this country have to be tested by the Medicines and Poisons Board. Why not take a sample to the board to test.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Unicef chief of operations Pamela Oganga said UN agency was procuring drugs of high quality and that they pose no danger to the public.
Oganga said the drugs could not be tested in Malawi because government was convinced that the companies supplying the drugs were pre-qualified and that the drugs went through rigorous quality assurance process.
Government said the delay to give conclusive response to the audit was due to the fact that the audit report was sent to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and Auditor General.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ACB is to probe the issues in the report further. We shall provide detailed response at an opportune time. It is our commitment that we clear this so that we are also clear with our development partners,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Henry Chimbali, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health.