The suspension of sixty-three Ministry of Health (MoH) workers could impact negatively on those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, the Malawi Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (Manet+) fears.
Government suspended the workers following allegations of embezzlement of millions of dollars of US funds sent for fighting HIV and AIDS.
The suspension includes both senior as well as junior workers including drivers.
Commenting on the development, Manet+ executive director Safari Mbewe noted that while his organisation does not condone corruption, “it is important to note that government should ensure that there is no disruption in the response to HIV and AIDS.”
Officials at MoH confirmed to Nyasa Times that the Ministry indeed carries out HIV and AIDS supervisory activities every three months.
Another round of supervision was scheduled to take place from January 6 next year.
“This is the activity which determines the smooth running of the ART [anti-retroviral therapy] programme because it has a long checklist which are pinned against the hospital to fulfil but as I’m speaking to you I don’t think there will be any of such an activity,” an official said. She could not be identified as she is not authorised to speak to the media.
Meanwhile, Mbewe has urged government that all mechanisms should be put in place to allow supervision to take place.
“We’re watching them, and we will not condone any disruption as far as HIV and AIDS is concerned,” said Mbewe.
The suspension of the workers is the first record number of civil servants to be suspended in the country.
Health Minister Peter Kumpalume said government suspended senior officials from the health ministry’s finance, human resources and HIV and AIDS departments were “suspended to allow auditors to investigate and audit the accounts.”
Malawi has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world, straining the healthcare system and economy. It has trimmed the national HIV prevalence rate from over 12 percent in 2004 to 10 percent in 2014.
Kumpalume said the stolen money ran into “millions”, adding that the US-funded Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had written the ministry to complain that they suspected civil servants from the HIV and AIDS project were defrauding the government.
US ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer, said she hoped the authorities “will identify those responsible and that they will be held fully accountable for the misuse of funds intended to improve the health of Malawian citizens.”
Prosecutors have in the past said one third of Malawi’s government revenue is lost through fraud.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :