Salone News

Massive Corruption at Health Ministry

17 November 2006 at 23:44 | 575 views

By Alpha Jalloh in Freetown and Gibril Koroma in Canada.

According to our Freetown correspondent Alpha Rashid Jalloh, a recent report released by by Sierra Leone’s Public Expenditure and Tracking Survey (PETS) has revealed that there is massive fraud and corruption in the country’s public sector especially at the Central Medical Store in Freetown.

The Central Medical Store (CMS),the repository of the country’s medical supplies, has been a den of corruption for decades as drugs meant for the country’s hospitals are routinely siphoned by unscrupulous individuals into private clinics and pharmacies, and sometimes into the hands of street drug peddlers commonly known as "Peppeh doctors".

Indeed the ministry of Health as a whole is frequently in the limelight as a bastion of corruption as civil servants, doctors, nurses, and other health workers desperately try to supplement their meagre incomes with the stealing and selling of government medical supplies. A study by the Campaign for Good Governance, a Sierra Leonean NGO unearthed disturbing cases of corruption some years ago in that ministry.Poor record keeping and minimal accountability in the supply and distribution of drugs is the rule rather than the exception.

According to our correspondent, the PETS investigation reveals that district medical officers did not distribute all the supplies received from the Central Medical Store in Freetown, thus creating a shortage of drugs in health units spread across the country, especially in the provincial areas where the death rate has been observed by experts to be on the increase due to poor medical facilities and the fact that rural folks are too poor to afford proper medical treatment.Unscrupulous health employees, according to our correspondent, often sell drugs at prohibitive prices in the country’s hospitals especially in the rural areas where there is little or no supervision or monitoring.

Also, the Central Medical Store in Freetown has been implicated in deals involving the preparation of Genral Issue and Registration Notes for the supply of drugs that were never in fact supplied to anybody or health unit.In the process, billions of leones have gone into the pockets of the "Big Guns" at the Central Medical Store and their superiors in the ministry’s hierarchy over the years.

There have consequently been strident calls for the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)to step in and thourougly investigate the Health ministry. Health minister Abator Thomas(photo) who has an untarnished record as an activist before her appointment is clearly unable or lacks the resources and support to combat the huge malaise in her ministry.

It will be recalled that Tranparency International recently classified Sierra Leone as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.