ACC staggers on Haufiku’s ‘medicine-rot’ file

Half a decade after the former health minister submitted what he considered strong evidence of corruption in the procurement of public medical supplies, the ACC has hardly anything to show for progress made.

30 March 2021 | Health

MATHIAS HAUFIKU







WINDHOEK

Five years after former health minister Dr Bernard Haufiku submitted files containing information on alleged corruption in the procurement of medicines in the public sector, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) claims it is still seized with the matter.

In the months leading up to his ouster in late 2018, Haufiku constantly clashed with the appointing authority and often publicly expressed his antagonistic views towards the manner in which government was running the sector.

He, at one point, even accused President Hage Geingob of meddling in ministerial affairs as well as blasting him for seeking help from the private sector to maintain the ailing public health sector.

At the centre of alleged corruption in that sector is inflation of medicine prices and lack of proper controls and security systems to curb the looting.

ACC said it has received “various reports on alleged corrupt practices concerning the procurement of medical equipment in the health sector.”

“The allegations against individuals and companies are being attended to, and the investigation is ongoing in the matter,” ACC spokesperson Josefina Nghituwamata told Namibian Sun recently.

“I wish it was possible to determine the speed at which the investigation in this matter will be completed; unfortunately, given the complexity of investigating corruption allegations, it is not possible.”

Punish them

Haufiku said there is a need to curb dishonesty and punish the culprits who abuse the system.

He also said he feels it is high time the ministry embraced partnerships with the private sector because “they have the experience and necessary resources”.

Haufiku aired these views recently in response to questions sent to him regarding the state of the medical sector and the corruption case he lodged with the ACC after discovering the alleged abuse of public resources.

He discussed his time as health minister and the extent to which medicine theft, inflated medical supply prices and mismanagement robbed the public health sector of millions of dollars that could have been used to save lives.

He added that the situation was so dire he went as far as submitting a dossier to the ACC calling for an investigation.

The agency’s director-general Paulus Noa yesterday said they are still seized with the matter.

“Yes, we received documentation from him at the time asking us to investigate alleged irregularities at the ministry. We are still analysing, but please speak to the lead investigator,” he told Namibian Sun.

Medicine theft

Haufiku said the theft of medicine by government officials colluding with private pharmaceutical companies was pervasive at the time.

“I cannot tell you how rife medicine theft is at the moment in the ministry as I am no longer in the ministry and I have no access to information in this regard. All I can say is that during my time in the ministry and possibly before that, theft of medicines has been of great concern to many of us both at strategic and management level because there are officials from the ministry who steal medicine and other items,” he said.

Medicine theft, Haufiku said, led to the ministry introducing security measures such as security cameras at medical warehouses controlled by the ministry as well as the Central Medical Stores “to help curb theft and other acts of dishonesty”.

Asked what he did during his time to curb the theft, he retorted: “We have initiated an audacious and all-system reform programme for the supply, management and distribution of all medicines and medical products in the ministry”.

There were also plans by the ministry to enter into a public-private partnership which would see government-owned medical stores being operated by private firms to ensure that the supply chain is managed prudently.

Price inflation

While the inflation prices for medicine procured for the public sector is also said to be rife, there are claims that ministerial officials collude with service providers to charge the health ministry astronomical prices.

To this, Haufiku said: “I cannot speak for now, but at the time I was working for the ministry, I can certainly confirm this”.

“As a matter of fact, I have included a number of questionable orders signed by then executive director [Dr Andreas Mwoombola] in my dossier.

“In 2015 for instance, we were spending about N$700 million on HIV medicines alone. I believe these figures were hugely inflated. There were even items that were bought and paid for but no one knew why,” he added.

Mwoombola has since left the ministry amid allegations of fraud.

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