Ministry of Health is in breach of procurement rules after failing to publish details of the contracts awarded to successful bidders to supply about K2.8 billion worth of drugs to Central Medical Stores (CMS) this financial year.
Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP) officials this week said it is a legal requirement for all government ministries and departments to publish results of bidding processes and details of contracts awarded to successful bidders.
â€œItâ€™s a legal requirement. That is the correct position,â€ said former ODPP director Bright Mangulama who later referred the matter to the departmentâ€™s assistant director Arnold Chirwa for more details.
Chirwa said: â€œItâ€™s a requirement for ministries and departments to publish that information. We actually issued a circular to all government offices to that effect.â€
He, however, said the circular only gives exceptions on transactions which involve small amounts of money.
Asked what penalties controlling officers face for breaching the requirement, Chirwa said: â€œRight now, there are no penalties specified in the law. The law does not give us powers to place the penalties.
â€œWhat we can do is to sanction the officers in writing and advise them to normalise the situation.â€
Ministry of Health last year announced that government had released K1.8 billion for the procurement of drugs through CMS in its emergency order.
Minister of Finance Dr Ken Lipenga recently told Parliament that government released K2.8 billion in the first half of the current financial year to procure drugs for central and district hospitals. He said another K1.8 billion would be released in the second half.
â€˜Itâ€™s not a legal requirementâ€™
Ministry of Health public relations officer Henry Chimbali on Thursday admitted they did not publish details of the contracts, but said the rule was only a standard practice.
â€œItâ€™s not a legal requirement. It is a standard practice to ensure transparency in the procurement process. It depends on the availability of resources and time which you have to get the items because sometimes you may need the items immediately,â€ said Chimbali.
He also said there is uncertainty on who is responsible for publishing the results because drug procurement transactions involve the ministry and CMS.
â€œWe have been doing that for some of our projects like construction of health centres but for drugs it has been a problem,â€ said Chimbali.
The public needs to know
Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) executive director Martha Kwataine said the public needs to know the companies which were given contracts to supply the drugs and what quantities they were mandated to supply.
â€œMinistry of Health is currently publishing details of the medical kits under distribution. Transparency should not just be on the donorsâ€™ money.
â€œWe need to know how drugs bought by our own money were procured, which companies were given the contracts, the prices and which drugs they were supposed to supply. Every government is accountable to its people,â€ said Kwataine.
She said failure to publish the information shows lack of transparency in the drug procurement process by government.
Currently, Unicef is distributing medical kit drugs to health centres and district hospitals with funding from donors, including Department for International Development (DfID), Norway, Ireland and Germany which have contributed about $33 million (about K5.4 billion) to buy essential drugs.