Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has asked the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to investigate the Ministry of Health for alleged illegal procurement of dialysis services.
In a letter to ACB, dated February 17 2021, HRDC says it has received reports of allegations that the Ministry of Health has been, and is, procuring dialysis services at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) from Fresenius of South Africa without tendering and in total violation of the single-sourcing provisions of the Public Procurement laws.
But Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda, in an interview yesterday, said HRDC was ignorant of the processes her ministry undertook in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said if HRDC engaged technocrats at her ministry and the Public Procurement and Declaration of Assets Authority (PPDA), they would have understood what is on the ground and would not have taken the matter to ACB.
HRDC writes: “This sets a dangerous precedent for not complying with procurement laws and should not be tolerated,” reads the letter signed by HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence and national coordinator Luke Tembo.
The rights body demands that Fresenius should not have more business to transact in Malawi until it is investigated and cleared by ACB.
The rights body says the nation’s public health space was overstretched at the moment due to the Covid-19 pandemic and it does not make sense to overburden it with more ridiculous expenditure that does not speak for value for money and the best interest of the patient.
But Chiponda said the situation in public hospitals was bad and her ministry engaged PPDA to allow them single-sourcing and extension of the dialysis services to Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe after QECH registered a success story.
On a different accountability matter, HRDC yesterday also issued a statement that they were appalled by the news that Leader of Opposition Kondwani Nankhumwa and others received questionable allowances upon every sitting of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 as well as other Covid-19 clusters.
Nankhumwa is on record to have defended himself that the allowances he received were meant to cater for fuel as he was operating from his base in Mulanje to Lilongwe where the meetings were taking place.
But HRDC says it was enraged by the recklessness exhibited by the leaders, especially at this time when it is important that the country uses every available resource to fight the pandemic.
“In fact, if the K3.6 million [that Nankhumwa received] was channelled directly towards the Covid-19 fight, it could have filled 36 oxygen cylinders or bought about 16 flow meters, both of which are critical for the survival of Covid-19 patients,” HRDC argues.
It says it was aware there are several culprits in this Covid-19 allowance scam.
“In light of this, we demand that government should release all the Covid-19 expenditure reports to Malawians. This is in the spirit of accountability and transparency on which our democracy is founded.
“Malawians need to know how their K6.2 billion was used or misused. The Office of the President and Cabinet, The Presidency and the Department of Disaster Preparedness have no right to withhold these reports in line with the Access to Information Act, which this government has vigorously championed,” HRDC demands.