The Sunday Leader

Corruption ‘Steals’ Billions In Health Sector

  • One fourth of Health Budget stolen

By Nirmala Kannangara

Corruption and malpractices has plagued the Health Ministry that has resulted in a severe drug and medical supplies shortage in government hospitals alleged National Organiser of Prof. Senaka Bibile Commemorative Association Dr. Jayantha Bandara.

According to Dr. Bandara, it has now come to light that a sizeable amount of public funds allocated for the country’s health sector ends up in the pockets of certain ‘big wigs’ within the administrative setup and queried what the percentage the ministry is really allocating to purchase drugs, medicinal supplies and medical devices.

“For 2014, the government allocated Rs.125 billion for the health sector out of which only a few billion rupees have been so far allocated for drugs and other medicinal supplies which is not enough at all. However more than one fourth of this amount is lost to corruption and malpractices. Although we have brought to the notice of the Health Minister that the reason behind the drug shortage is corruption and malpractices with proven documents, no action has been taken against any official. Instead some of them have been sent on retirement,” alleged Dr. Bandara.

Dr. Bandara accused the Health Minister and is officials for the long delay in implementing the National Medicinal Drug Policy (NMDP) that was scheduled to be presented in parliament a few months ago.

“This is an ‘artificial’ delay due to vested interest to please their stooges. We learnt that this NMDP is not the original Senaka Bibile drug policy. If the original Senaka Bibile Drug policy is implemented drugs and other medical supplies cannot be purchased to the whims and fancies of those who are near and dear to politicians and can hamper the ulterior motives of multinational drug companies,” said Dr. Bandara.

He accused the government for its failure to provide quality drugs to its people as multinational drug companies bribe the higher officials.

“The health ministry dances to the tunes of these drug companies without providing the people a value oriented health service. When the health ministry blacklisted eight Indian drug companies in 2011 for supplying substandard drugs the Indian government got the blacklisting withdrawn immediately. As a result the health ministry still purchases substandard, low quality drugs from these companies. Although the Indian Government was concerned about the loss of income to their drug manufactures and got the blacklisting removed, the Sri Lankan government was not concerned about the wellbeing of its people and bent their backs to the Indian Government and withdrew the blacklisting allowing these Indian companies to supply substandard drugs. According to Dr. Bandara, multinational drug companies have openly stated that they do not want Senaka Bibile drug policy implemented but only a national drug policy knowing that in the event Senaka Bibile drug policy is implemented, there are no loopholes to import low quality substandard drugs.

“Prof. Bibile played the leading role in developing a rational pharmaceutical policy aimed at ensuring that poor people would get quality drugs at a low price. A careful selection of drugs was an essential component of the policies he advocated. Since there were allegations that pharmaceutical companies in the country made considerable profits by selling drugs under their trade name Prof. Bibile investigated the issue and recommended the establishment of a national policy and of a state body to regularise the trade. That was why the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) was inaugurated. Prof. Bibile became the founder chairman of the SPC. The SPC then channeled all imports of pharmaceuticals, calling for worldwide bulk tenders, which were limited to the approved drugs listed in the national policy. The public and private health sectors obtained all their requirements from the SPC. Hence the drug trade was regulated by this body and drug sellers were forced to compete with each other,’ said Dr. Bandara.

According to Dr. Bandara World Health Organization (WHO) and other UN agencies supported this policy that benefitted the third world countries which are now followed in over 100 countries including developed nations.

“We are ready to expose the ulterior motives of the health authorities for their alleged failure to introduce a drug policy that does not give any benefits to the country. If the Prof.Bibile drug policy is introduced the advantage would be enormous and people would have been able to purchase any kind of drug under its generic name at a fair price. If this policy is implemented the government does not need to spend billions on foreign exchange to import number of essential drugs, but only a few hundred varieties of drugs. Fixed prices for drugs with quality assurance would come into the market instead of sub-standard and low quality drugs,’ added Dr. Bandara. According to Dr. Bandara, Medical Supply and Technology Division of the Health Ministry is the Drug Authority, which has the National Drug Quality Assurance Laboratory (NDQAL) that can check the quality of all drugs that are imported.

“The SPC Chairman clearly states that 90% of the required drugs are imported from India which has no quality assurance since we have no facilities to check the quality of these drugs. The NDQAL’s role should be to check the sample from the manufacture to give the approval to import the drug and then carry out a random check before the stock is shipped. Once the stocks are brought to the country another random check has to be done before they are distributed and to check once again if there are any complaints from the people. Other than carrying out tests to see the quality of the drugs if there are complaints from the public, the other procedures are not carried out. Knowing these loopholes India keeps on sending sub-standard low quality drugs to Sri Lanka,” said Dr. Bandara.

He further stated that failure to carry out Chemical Analysis and quantitative analysis of the imported drugs, the doctors who prescribe these drugs have no clue whether the active ingredients are there in the medicine or not.

Meanwhile General Secretary of All Ceylon Health Services Union Gamini Kumarasinghe said that the drug shortage has become a serious issue now and added that under the present government this has become a regular problem.

“Although the government boasts that Rs.125 billion has been allocated for the country’s health sector we wish to know as to where these monies have gone. The treasury does not release the required money to purchase drugs. As a result the health ministry has not paid the drug companies, which have led them to stop supplying drugs.
Sources from the national Hospital, Wathupitiwala Hospital, Homagama Base Hospital, Colombo South Teaching Hospital, Colombo North Teaching Hospital, Ratnapura General Hospital and Nagoda Hospital confirmed to The Sunday Leader that there are drug shortages in their respective hospitals.

He further said that although evidences are galore of shoddy deals in drugs and medical supplies purchase and the names of those involved have been exposed, nothing has been done to take action against them.

“When the Presidential Investigation Unit wanted the Health Ministry to take disciplinary action against the then Director General of Health Services for an alleged fraud, the Health Ministry did not take any action but allowed him to go on retirement,” said Kumarasinghe.

According to him, health ministry loses considerable amount of its allocation through local purchase. “The ministry can place orders for drugs and other supplies in advance without waiting till the stocks are over. But they wait till the stocks are over and go for local purchase as the ministry officials can manipulate the prices. It was what exactly happened when the Medical Supplies Division purchased surgical gloves at a cost of Rs. 45 per pair, when they were purchased for Rs. 20-25 through the tender procedure. The same gloves have been purchased for Rs. 67 by the National Hospital. It was the same with examination gloves.

When a pair of examination gloves could have been bought for Rs.2.50 through tender procedure they have been bought at a rate of Rs. 7.68- 7.80. This shows as to how certain Health Ministry officials and local suppliers have robbed our money to the tune of over Rs.1 billion on this shoddy deal alone,” alleged Kumarasinghe

4 Comments for “Corruption ‘Steals’ Billions In Health Sector”

  1. patriot

    There is so much of hype and publicity and millions spent on the Anti-Dengue Campaign ! but, is any useful work done in the suburbs ?
    IIt is really sham work.Some illerate unemployed villagers are sent round in batches once or twice a month said to be for inspecting household premises.. Do they in any way contribute to the campaign other than to show inthe records that certain areas have been visited ?
    This appears to be part of the overall mess in the Health system in the country! The Minister is hell bent on increasing the picture coverage on cigarettes packets which will not reach the below middle- class smoker who comprise the majority as they buy only one or two cigarettes at a time and may not see the packets which bear the pictorials.
    The introduction of the National Medicinal Health Policy which is of greater importance is delayed for unknown reasons.

  2. There is a saying ” If the fence eat the crop , there is no way loss can be prevented ” in the case of Fraud, Fraud & Fraud the top ‘MR’ insists on a percentage of share in every deal, imports or local purchase. When commission is paid by any organization or individual the price naturally is increased to pay commission & substanded , low quality products are purchased & supplied, the supplier’s only aim is to make the maximum profit.
    Sri Lanka has gone down the drain, it can never be braught to its glourious original standard, never.

  3. kamil

    DECIDE YOUR VOTE AND AVOID CORRUPTIONS IN ANY GOVT

  4. Gobila

    Dr. Bandara, there is no Senaka Bibille policy. prof. Senaka Bibille and Dr. S A Wickremasingha provided a report to Late Mrs. Sirimawo Bandanayaki on her request. You all are talking about this report. Dont misgude innocent poor peple in this country by giving wrong information.

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