FUNDUZI FORENSIC AUDIT REPORT UNPACKED: PAID HOLIDAYS, FLIGHTS FOR SOME HEALTH OFFICIALS

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FUNDUZI FORENSIC AUDIT REPORT UNPACKED: PAID HOLIDAYS, FLIGHTS FOR SOME HEALTH OFFICIALS
FUNDUZI FORENSIC AUDIT REPORT UNPACKED: PAID HOLIDAYS, FLIGHTS FOR SOME HEALTH OFFICIALS

Africa-Press – Eswatini. Some officials in the Ministry of Health were allegedly treated to fully paid flights, holidays and expeditions outside the country by some local medical drugs suppliers.

This was part of submissions made by the lead investigator in the forensic audit into the acquisition and distribution of medicines to public health facilities in Eswatini, Boyce Mkhize.

Mkhize was roped in by Funduzi Forensic Services (Pty) Ltd, which was tasked with carrying out a forensic investigation into the entire cycle of ordering, purchasing, payment, delivery and supply of medicines and drugs to public health facilities in the country. The company was requested by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to make a summary of the report before it could be deliberated upon in Parliament yesterday.

Mkhize initially highlighted to the committee that as a fraud examiner, he was accountable to two regulatory bodies, one being the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. He said he was also accountable by virtue of the fact that he is an admitted senior counsel (advocate) of the High Court of South Africa and accountable to the Legal Practice Council of South Africa. Making reference to payments amounting to over E1 billion, allegedly made to suppliers without purchase orders from 2021 to 2023, Mkhize highlighted that part of the challenge in their findings was that there was evidence of collusion between members of staff that were entrusted with the responsibility of managing the drugs supply processes and management, with certain suppliers.

He said in fact, some of the health officials helped suppliers in the procurement processes, which was prohibited by the law that deals with the prevention of corruption, as it basically meant that they were giving an upper hand to a certain supplier. He mentioned that some of the suppliers would dump stock which was not ordered and the staff would not return that stock, on the basis that there was no order accompanying it. Mkhize said they would wait for some period and afterwards, the supplier would then submit an invoice for the same stock that had not been ordered and the stock in respect of the invoice would be ordered. He also shared that they found that some suppliers would also dump stock that had a short shelf-life than prescribed. He indicated that the prescribed period for any supplied drug was a shelf-life of 18 months, but their findings pointed out that this expectation was sometimes ignored.

Relabelling

Mkhize also highlighted that some of the health officials helped the suppliers relabel some of the medicines, right at the premises of the Central Medical Stores (CMS), which was irregular and a matter that indicated some collusion and complicity in possibly creating a particular picture about certain drugs, which perhaps may not have been the case. “The staff is not supposed to touch any labels that pertain to the drugs, because this has legal implications. If something happens to a patient, based on the batch, normally an investigation is launched to determine what transpired and if the relabelling occurred at the premises of the CMS, the legal implications of that are just too much to contemplate,” he said.

These are allegations contained in the report, which is yet to be debated by Parliament. Mkhize also asserted that the question that came to mind was why would the staff do that and they got their answer when they started digging deeper and finding certain aspects that were of concern.Firstly, Mkhize revealed that they found that certain staff members were paid hard cash, transferred into bank accounts of the staff members, allegedly by some suppliers and evidence was there. “No wonder there have been fights around this report, with certain individuals wanting the report not to be issued. It contains these things and that is why certain people have been kicking and screaming and trying to introduce side shows and shooting, attacking the messenger, simply because they are aware of what is contained in the report,” he said.

Mkhize emphasised that the findings were not things that had been imagined, but there was hardcore evidence, which had been shared with law enforcers and they were looking into it. “We found out that some of the staff members were in fact treated to paid-for expeditions by certain suppliers. They were paid for holidays and flights outside of the country and that is the reason why we are then at this point where the report must be fought with everything they have, because it implicates the staff members and it also implicates the drugs suppliers,” he said.

Administration

Mkhize said the findings they made might have been the inducement for the staff members to accept the drugs that had not been ordered, drugs with shorter shelf-life and also to prioritise certain drugs suppliers, so that they were always in front of the queue in terms of provision. “We found that all was not well with the entire administration of medical drugs and the suppliers and the questions that we had were answered. We found that the public had been short-changed, the people are suffering and God knows how many have died when they could have lived if it were not for these unbecoming activities, perpetrated, in some instances, by some of the suppliers and the staff concerned,” he alleged.Mkhize highlighted that they made recommendations on what needed to be done, which he also summarised. Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health Khanya Mabuza acknowledged the contents of the report when asked by the PAC Chairperson, MP Madala Mhlanga, if they were actually a reflection of the challenges that were faced by the ministry.

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