… As pleas for police to guard Central Medical Store are ignored
By Marianne Nghidengwa
MEDICINE worth N$5 million has been looted from government’s Central Medical Store (CMS) by a syndicate that has been operating with impunity, stocktaking exercises in 2012 and 2017 by the Ministry of Health and Social Services has revealed.
A further 435 rabies vaccine packs worth N$368 736 also disappeared from CMS in May.
This was revealed in a damning report compiled by suspended Health and Social Services Permanent Secretary, Dr Andreas Mwoombola, and sent to the Safety and Security Ministry and the Anti-Corruption Commission on 11 July, which details the continuous theft of medicine and other supplies from the CMS, which involves health ministry officials.
A whopping N$3 million worth of medicine was missing in March this year, while the report says further that theft of medicine and other medical supplies from the medical warehouse dates back to 2012, when the stock theft stood at N$2 million.
It also says that the syndicate was reported to the ACC, the Ministry of Safety and Security, as well as the Namibian police, after the 2012 theft was picked up, but that nothing had been done.
Confidente understands that once the supplies are stolen from the warehouse, they are either resold to the health ministry or to private companies, with those involved pocketing the money.
“There are ample reasons to suspect that rampant pilferage and theft of medicine and other related products by the staff is going on at the Central Medical Store,” Mwoombola wrote in the July report.
“One of the pointers to the above suspicion is the fact that there are always huge stock shortages whenever a physical stocktaking is done. The magnitude of the stock shortages is such that these shortages cannot be accounted for by normal operational errors. For example, the last annual physical stocktaking, which was conducted in March 2017, revealed that there was a net stock shortage of N$3 million,” the report reads.
Mwoombola also raised concerns regarding lack of investigations, despite the initial theft being reported nearly five years ago.
“There are correspondences dating back to 2012, in which the same issue of theft was raised. Police officers were requested to secure the CMS building and the ACC was requested to investigate what was suspected to be a syndicate at the CMS that was involved in organising pilferage and theft. Nothing came out of these two requests and the situation seems to have even deteriorated further.
“The concern is in consideration of the high value of the medicine that was involved, and the fact that theft is suspected to be happening on a routine basis at the Central Medical Store.
“If this matter, which was reported to the police, is seen to be speedily investigated, the suspects prosecuted and the culprits swiftly brought to book, it would act as a deterrent. On the other hand, lack of swift action will make the suspects even bolder,” Mwoombola wrote.
Former health permanent secretary, Andrew Ndishishi, first alerted the ACC and police to the syndicate in December 2012.
“There have been a number of allegations regarding pilferage and thefts by the staff members at our Central Medical Store, situated at the Ministry of Works and Transport’s warehouse in the Southern Industrial area. The value of medicine lost so far this year alone is estimated at about N$2 million,” Ndishishi wrote in 2012.
“There are staff who have been implicated in the past and perhaps these staff can also be part of this investigation. They are all workhands. Some of these cases have been reported to the police, but (there has been) no action so far and (the) stealing is continuing at an alarming rate,” Ndishishi added.
He said that although CCTV cameras were strategically placed at the CMS warehouse, they were tampered with.
“THE CMS has CCTV cameras installed at strategic places, but these are being manipulated and only some few incidences could be seen on the cameras.”
In a second letter, dated 20 December 2012, Ndishishi again wrote to the Ministry of Safety and Security.
Nampol Inspector-General, Sebastian Ndeitunga, was also copied in the letter, which requested that police officers guard the medical warehouse.
“Theft is very high. The situation is getting out of hand, because staff are involved in those deals and it is believed that a syndicate is at work at the CMS, therefore the Ministry of Health and Social Services would like to have a full presence of the Namibian police members at the premises and entry doors of CMS warehouses, 24 hours (a day), to oversee the premises and people’s movements. I believe that this will minimise theft and stop (the) stealing and also to bring those culprits to face the law.”
Contacted for comment this week, Health Minister Dr Bernard Haufiku, while confirming the stock theft, said that he cannot divulge further information, as the matter was now with the ACC and the police.
Missing rabies vaccines
According to the report, the rabies vaccine was delivered at the CMS on 2 May, but went missing less than a week later on 8 May.
The disappearance was detected by a manager, whose name is known to Confidente, and who was to dispatch the vaccines to the Oshakati Medical Store.
“I received a quantity of 435 rabies vaccines, pack size five, and put it in the container outside, with the assistance of my workhand. One May 2017, when I went there to issue it all out to Oshakati Medical Store, to our surprise all the rabies vaccines had disappeared,” the manager said in a report.
The health ministry opened a case of theft and three health officials were arrested in connection with the theft. Investigations into the matter continue.
Inside sources told Confidente that the theft has spiralled out of control, because senior government officials are involved.
“It will be difficult for the ministry to bring to an end the syndicate, because people work as teams. They are strategically placed to steal the supplies. It has come to a point where people are intimidated and threatened, if they expose those involved,” the source said.
“Those involved know their tricks very well and they cover their backs. It is unfortunate for the patients, who are told that there is no medicine, and they have to return again to get their medicine.
“Even if they try to trace the stolen supplies, it is difficult to establish their whereabouts, because the packaging for private and public medical supplies is the same.”
ACC Director Paulus Noa said this week that he cannot comment on the matter, because he was caught up in meetings.
Ndeitunga said that he was aware of the matter.
“I remember that matter, and it was responded to. The only challenge is resources, to ensure that our officers are deployed to the warehouse,” he said.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015