By: Trifonia Chagoma
The senior resident magistrate court in Lilongwe has convicted and sentenced three government officials from the Ministry of Health at Bwaila District Hospital to three years imprisonment with hard labour for stealing government drugs.
According to the state prosecutor Sub Inspector Jones Chikonde, the court was told that the whole incident took place on November 20, 2015, following a revelation made from two security guards who were on duty at the hospital’s main gate.
It was alleged that the two spotted a laundry attendant for the hospital Viera Kwauma carrying a bag and was attempting to invade the guards pass unsearched.
When his plans were interrupted this employee tried to escape but was immediately caught and after a search was conducted it was discovered that he was attempting to sneak out with assorted government drugs worth K540, 345.00 which were wrapped in a blanket.
His arrest implicated the involvement of three other health officials from the hospital’s Pharmacy department and a patient attendant respectively.
Though the four suspects pleaded not guilty to the charge which was leveled against them, there was enough evidence to convict them. Detective Inspector Michael Maseko of Central Region police headquarters proved the case beyond reasonable doubt, this prompted Senior Resident Magistrate Patrick Chirwa to convict all the suspects except Yohane Mphande (34) of Simon village, T/A Chisemphere in Kasungu who was acquitted during ruling.
During the judgment, the magistrate stated that failure of Bwaila hospital authorities in coming up with an audit report to prove drug theft practice was taking place at the hospital really showed that the offence was an inside job and well coordinated one. He, however, convicted the accused persons with an offence of theft which is contrary to section 278 of the penal code against the earlier charge of theft by a civil servant.
Sentencing the trio Senior Resident Magistrate Patrick Chirwa condemned the act describing it as a dismay as cases of theft of medical drugs in government hospitals are on the increase. He stated that it is really worrisome to note that the perpetrators of these cases are civil servants who are tarnishing the image of the government thereby losing its public trust and confidence.
He further said that the effects of drug shortages in government hospitals is affecting many people’s lives mainly those who are less privileged and cannot afford to buy the drugs in private hospitals whenever they get sick and at the end they are the sufferers hence a need for a stiffer penalty to deter would-be offenders.
He, therefore, committed the trio to Maula prison to serve a custodial sentence of 36 months imprisonment with hard labour. The convicts are- Viela Kwauma (36) who hails from Kalolo village, T/A Kalolo in Lilongwe while Julio Makwinja (30) hails from Makunganya village, T/A Mlumbe, Zomba and James Mphozongo (34) hails from Malasa village, T/A Malengachanzi in Nkhotakota.