Monday, August 22, 2011

Wrong Vaccines Imported - Namibia

Windhoek — Chief Pharmacist at the Central Medical Store in the Ministry
of Health and Social Services, Gilbert Habimana, says he was authorised
by Permanent Secretary Kahijoro Kahuure to purchase a consignment of
wrong vaccines worth N$18 million from Cuba.

The Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Richard Kamwi has in
recent weeks come under sustained fire from the media for procuring
"wrong" vaccines that he eventually "donated" back to Cuba from where
the vaccines were imported.

This was done out of negotiations that were going on between the two
governments "due to an emergency situation which was prevailing on that
time", according to a memorandum addressed to Health Minister, Dr
Richard Kamwi from Habimana.

"I confirm that the Permanent Secretary authorised me to proceed with
such purchase. I confirm that CMS ran a normal buy-out process and
followed normal procedures to select the best offer," read the memorandum.

According to another memorandum by Habimana addressed to Kahuure, the
Heberpenta Pentavalent vaccine ran out of stock at CMS in
'November-December' last year.

He approached Kahuure to ask him if CMS could still buy the vaccine out
of current negotiations between Namibia and Cuba, "as CMS had tried in
vain during October-November 2010 to get response from the usual
supplier of the pentavalent vaccine, Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK)" in South

Habimana states that it was, in fact, a good alternative as the
ministry's inspector had cleared the Heberpenta Pentavalent vaccine, as
cheaper than the one in use and was "readily available".

"The Permanent Secretary authorised me to proceed. However, to do that,
CMS ran a buy-out process: three requests for quotation were sent
respectively to Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK), Geka-Pharma-Omapango (local
wholesaler) and Heber-Biotec, Cuba. The by-out process was done by the
Tender and Procurement Section as usual," the memorandum says.

The memorandum further highlights that the best offer was found to be
that of Heber-Biotec, as CMS was running out stock of the pentavalent

"The delivery period was critical and had to be a decisive factor. The
speed of delivery as a decisive element was not new. Buyouts are always
emergency orders. In this case, hospitals had started to complain about
the stock out of the pentavalent vaccine," adds the memorandum.

Meanwhile, an emotional Kamwi said at a press briefing on Tuesday that
he came to know about the arrival of these vaccines through
whistleblowers around December.

"Allegations are being leveled against me that I ordered vaccines from
Cuba without consulting the relevant administrative staff and paid N$50
million for the deal which was exempt from going to tender. This is
misleading and devoid of any truth," he fumed.

"Yes, I admit the N$18 million and not N$50 million as cited in some
print media."

In addition, he said: "The vaccines were with us, we brought in the
Cuban experts from where they were purchased to seek their understanding
if we could swap with any WHO pre-qualified medicines. However, it was
not possible to do so due to technical reasons."

What has not been sufficiently explained is why the country proceeded to
procure the vaccines when the vaccines would not meet WHO requirements.

In an attempt to find out if there are any chances of the Cuban
government refunding Namibia for the vaccines, the Deputy Head of
Mission at the Cuban Embassy, Antonio Pubillones, said yesterday that he
would not comment on the matter as he is not very much involved.

"Call Kamwi," he said.

Further comment from the health ministry could not be obtained as the
minister's office referred this reporter to the PS's office, who was out
of town while the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Dr Norbert Foster, was
said to be locked in a meeting all day long.

Some critics feel the N$18 million spent on the "wrong" drugs is a gross
wastage of scarce public resources and that someone at the ministry
should be held account able for the huge financial loss."

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