LUSAKA, May 10 (Xinhua) -- The Zambian government on Thursday clarified that an audit report released by the Global Fund on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was not a new issue because it was conducted with the backing of government following reports of high drug pilferage at a government agency responsible for procurement and storage of drugs.
The Global Fund has released an audit report on the usage of grants it gives to Zambia, with the report highlighting that health products worth 1 million U.S. dollars went missing from the Medical Stores Limited.
The Global Fund has since requested the government to pay back the funds.
The revelation has caused anger among stakeholders who have accused the government of failure to control the continued abuse of resources in the Ministry of Health.
But Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya said there was nothing new in the findings of the audit because it was something the government had discovered in 2016 following it's internal investigations which showed high incidents of drug pilferage.
The Zambian minister told reporters that the government in collaboration with the Global Fund commissioned a surgical investigation following increased reports of a highly organized crime cartel involving some employees at the drug agency and some foreigners from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"This information was shared with the Global Fund which in the true spirit of partnership availed an external, conflict of interest free and objective forensic audit covering the period 2014 to 2016 to quantify the risk as well as identify the suspected losses in the supply chain system," he told reporters during a press briefing.
According to him, the investigations resulted in the arrest of seven suspects from the drugs agency as well as two DRC nationals over the pilferage of drugs, adding that stringent measures have since been put in place to arrest the situation.
He further said the stringent measures put in place at the drugs agency have resulted in significant reduction in wastage of drug supplies by more than 95 percent and zero expiry of antiretroviral drugs in the first quarter of 2018.
He further said the repayment of 1 million dollars to the Global Fund was standard procedure as any recipient country was required to repay the money if there was misapplication of the resources.