The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament yesterday sent back officials of the Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) after they failed to satisfactorily respond to an audit query of a K1.1 billion (US$2.8 million) worth of medical supplies which were destroyed this past August.
The officials comprised acting chief executive officer Fred Mzoma, director of finance Gladney Mulima, director of corporate services David Nungu and were accompanied by Kelita Kamoto, head of and technical support services in the Ministry of Health.
In its query of the Auditor General’s report for the year ending June 2011, PAC queried the circumstances that led to the non-use of drugs and medical supplies worth K1.1 billion of which Mzoma explained was a result of a two-year procurement without proper quantification and discontinuation of the TB treatment regime.
But their explanation was lacking prompting Chikhwawa John Zingale to comment that PAC was dealing with the ‘wrong people’ and the controlling officer at the time of the procurement or secretary for health Charles Mwansambo should have appeared before the committee instead.
Explanations from the officials also did not satisfy Zomba Chingale parliamentarian Lonnie Chijere Chirwa and chairperson of the committee Beatrice Mwangonde who demanded further explanations.
“This was happening at a time when there was a drug crisis in hospitals. There was no cotton wool, no plasters and yet these items were lying idle at Central Medical Stores,” said Chijere Chirwa.
Kamoto’s explanation and acceptance of mismanagement at CMS before it was turned into a trust backfired on her.
“There was gross mismanagement at CMS and government brought in management consultants who were responsible for procurement of the cotton wool, x-ray envelopes before they were let go,” she said.
Mzoma’s regret at what transpired for the drugs to be boarded off and subsequently destroyed did not appease Mangochi South MP Yusuf Matumula who said that amount at the current devaluated rate would have built 500 to 600 teachers’ houses in the country.
“Here [PAC] we deal with people who have misappropriated K300 000.What happened to the people responsible for this? Have they been brought to book?” Matumula queried.
The committee has since agreed to summon secretary for health and possibly, controller of the drug buying entity before it was turned into a trust to answer audit queries dating back to 2008.