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MATSAPHA – Failure by government to pay E85 000 is one of the reasons that led to the health crisis that has resulted in medical drugs shortages.

In fact, the Health Crisis Sub-committee members learnt with shock that one of the things that lead to the shortage of drugs in the country was the unavailability of E85 000. This amount is what the Central Medical Stores (CMS) required to service and/or renew a licence for its fleet management system, which include closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and tracking devices. These devices were instrumental in curbing the theft of the medical drugs when they were being transported to various hospitals and clinics. Without these devices, some officers took advantage of the situation and diverted the vehicles, resulting in the drugs being delivered to unintended places. Following the expiry of the service and/or non-renewal of the licence, the CMS team told the sub-committee that government said it did not have a budget to service and/or renew the system. As such, the CMS team said the cctv cameras and tracking devices in their delivery trucks were not functioning.


One of the sub-committee members, Manqoba Khumalo, who is the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade, asked in disbelief if indeed government had said it did not have the E85 000. The CMS team maintained its statement. The sub-committee, which comprises of Minister of Health Mduduzi Matsebula, Minister Khumalo, Minister of Labour and Social Security Phila Buthelezi, Minister of Finance Neal Rijkenberg and Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health Khanya Mabuza, was tasked by Cabinet with addressing the ongoing health crisis in the country and it visited the CMS warehouse in Matsapha to get a feel of the prevailing situation, so that it could take an informed decision. However, during yesterday’s visit, one of the sub-committee members (minister of Finance) was not present.

After the CMS team had given a presentation to the sub-committee, Minister Khumalo, who also chaired the meeting, asked what controls the medical stores had in place to ensure that the drugs it dispatched reached the final and intended destination. He highlighted that he was asking this question because there were stories out there, which suggested that CMS delivery vehicles were sometimes spotted delivering medical drugs to vehicles, instead of health facilities. In response, the CMS team said they registered every box of drugs they dispatched and also registered where it was going. Thereafter, they said they would get a delivery note and rely on information which they got from regional pharmacists, who visited the health facilities in the regions.


One of the CMS team members then highlighted that they used to have CCTV cameras and tracking devices in their delivery vehicles, but these were no longer functional as they did not have the funds to service and/or renew the licence of the fleet management system. He said they approached government with the aim of getting money to renew the licence, but the administration told them that it did not have a budget for that. Thereafter, Minister Khumalo asked how much was needed to renew the licence and the CMS team member said according to the last quotation they did, they required E85 000. “So, government said it does not have E85 000?” the minister, who was visibly shocked asked. The CMS team member maintained his response. Thereafter, Minister Khumalo said this should be addressed as soon as possible. “This is non-negotiable, it has to be done immediately,” the minister said. Thereafter, Minister Buthelezi said information he had gathered was that CMS had a trading account and it was positive. He then wondered why these funds were not used to sort out the issue of the fleet management system. In response, the CMS team said that account could not be used on things outside medical drugs.


The minister interjected and emphasised that the issue of cctv cameras and tracing devices needed to be addressed, because they needed electronic evidence that all drugs that were dispatched from the CMS reached the intended destination. It is worth noting that during the Minister of Health, Matsebula’s tour at CMS, about a fortnight ago, he also asked about the security of drugs during deliveries. He was told that they had a case where some employees were spotted trying to cover the cctv camera in a delivery vehicle, with an object, while they were on their way to deliver drugs. This also came after the minister had raised concerns about stories he had heard, that CMS vehicles were seen delivering to undesignated places.  It is worth mentioning that the shortage of drugs in the country has resulted in some emaSwati losing their loved ones and others spending more money in procuring drugs from private pharmacies.

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