… As syndicate empties Central Medical Store
By Marianne Nghidengwa
AN Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) investigation has lifted the veil on a criminal syndicate, which according to a 2012 report had already stolen N$5 million worth of rabies vaccines from government’s Central Medical Store (CMS), and has been smuggling Namibian medicines to neighbouring countries.
Among other medicine most at risk of being stolen from the CMS are insulin, Accu-Chek, yellow fever vaccine and Anusol ointment, which according to the ACC is sold on the black market in African countries.
The syndicate, which has been operating for several years, includes Congolese nationals with Angolan and Zambian passports, an ACC investigation has revealed.
ACC Director, Paulus Noa, revealed the existence of the syndicate this week, following an exposé by Confidente last week that included confirmation that 435 rabies vaccine packs, worth N$368 736, were looted from the CMS warehouse in May.
Noa this week trashed claims that the anti-corruption watchdog ignored pleas from the Ministry of Health and Social Services to probe the ongoing theft at the CMS, when the existence of the criminal syndicate was first reported five years ago.
In a letter addressed to former health permanent secretary, Andrew Ndishishi, dated 18 December 2012, Noa explained that a health official, Linus Shiimi was arrested in connection with being in cahoots with the syndicate, after it was found that he sold stolen medicine to two Congolese nationals.
According to Noa’s letter, Shiimi had also participated in a sting operation after his arrest, and had led the police to his Congolese buyers, Rogerio Menga Sozinho, who has an Angolan passport and Media Kanyembo, who has a Zambian passport.
“Mr Sozinho was identified by Mr Shiimi as one of the buyers of stolen medicine. In addition, another Congolese national with a Zambian passport, Miss Media Kanyembo, was identified by Shiimi as a buyer. Her witness statement was obtained and she is currently under investigation by immigration, following suspicion that she may be a prohibited immigrant,” Noa wrote at the time.
So rife was the theft at time that Noa also recommended the taking of photographs of the packaging of the medicine to be distributed at border posts, in order to assist the police to identify possibly stolen stock.
Noa also advised the health ministry to carry out more frequent stock takes, especially of medicine that are popular on the black markets of neighbouring countries. He had also recommended that high theft risk medicine be isolated, and additional measures, such as separate packaging, be implemented.
“Receiving and dispatch procedures should be revised, to ensure that short deliveries and additional medicines being dispatched is minimised. All staff should be searched on leaving the general storage area, irrespective of who they are,” Noa wrote.
“It may assist if areas are caged off and specific persons are made responsible for such areas and the stock control therein.”
Noa this week said that the ministry failed to act on his recommendations, before stressing that the ACC went above and beyond the call of duty to curtail the syndicate.
“Immediate and decisive disciplinary action should be taken against Shiimi and other perpetrators to ensure that a strong message is sent to would be thieves.
“A media campaign sensitising the general public to be on the lookout for such medicine can be considered,” Noa had recommended to the health ministry.
Confidente recently reported that a 2017 stock take had revealed that N$3 million in stock was missing from by the CMS.
The stock missing in 2012 amounted to N$2 million.
The existing of a criminal syndicate was revealed in a damning report compiled by 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, involving health ministry officials.
It was revealed that the stolen supplies are also 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,” 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,” Mwoombola wrote.
Former health permanent secretary, Andrew Ndishishi, first alerted the ACC and police to the syndicate in December 2012.
At the time he said that strategically placed CCTV cameras at the warehouse were tampered with, to destroy evidence.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015