Corruption bleeding health sector: TI-Z

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA/LORRAINE MUROMO

CORRUPTION in the health sector has stifled service delivery despite the existence of many organisations that fight corruption, a report by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TI-Z) revealed yesterday.

TI-Z said health sector corruption had resulted in the majority of citizens losing confidence in local health systems, while government officials sought treatment abroad.

The TIZ report launched yesterday also said illicit financial flows were rampant within the health sector as noted by corrupt procurement procedures, cross-border smuggling and theft of medical supplies resulting in severe shortcomings in health service provision.

“In the past year, there has been a surge in interest on the impact of corruption on the public health sector due to the novel coronavirus. Eighty-one percent of the respondents in the research agreed that they had witnessed, experienced or heard of corruption occurring in the public health sector. As a result of the low wages and poor working conditions, public health workers have resorted to moonlighting, absenteeism, illegal referrals and bribery,” the report said.

Zimbabwe last year scored 24% in the corruption perception index compiled by TI-Z and was ranked 157 out of 180 countries in terms of fighting corruption.

Respondents who participated in the TI-Z study said they had resorted to paying bribes in cash or kind, including sex transactions to solicit for healthcare services from health workers.

“Pharmaceutical companies are sometimes left out in the bidding process while briefcase companies with links to politically exposed persons are given preferential treatment. It is like what happened in the Covidgate scandal, where Drax International, a company which was only two weeks old, was awarded a US$60 million tender.”

TI-Z urged government to improve remuneration and general welfare of health workers to curb corruption.

“The Health and Child Care ministry and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission should commission a comprehensive corruption assessment that analyses the perception of risks and vulnerabilities within the health sector,” the watchdog stated.

Commenting on the TI-Z report, Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said: “Our government’s poor record of public service delivery, alongside corruption, cronyism and mismanagement even in a pandemic and in emergency situations requires not just our oversight, but an active role in shaping and delivering an equitable national vaccination rollout programme”.

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