COVID-19 donations sold
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By Keiso Mohloboli
The National Drug Service Organisation (NDSO) under the Lesotho health ministry is embroiled in allegations of illegal sale of donated COVID-19 protective clothing and other equipment.
Mandated to procure, store and distribute medicines and medical consumables for the government and other health institutions in Lesotho, NDSO was tasked by the parent ministry to store the Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundation donation pending distribution, according to reports.
On March 26, Chinese based Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation donated 20 000 testing kits, 100 000 masks, and 1 000 medical use protective suits in support of the fight against COVID-19 that has spread across the world – claiming thousands of lives.
Findings by The Kingdom Digital have unearthed that NDSO has sold protective suits, masks and testing kits, with buyers requesting anonymity at the moment because “we will be helping government with evidence of the said sale.”
“We happened to hear that the NDSO was selling COVID-19 medical equipment, and as national distributors of medicines in the country we trusted them and approached them for business,” a businessman told the publication.
“What was suspicious, though, was the procedure to actually receive our orders; we had to wait for quite some time before being called for collection after payment,” one source said.
Another source added there are still other businesses waiting to be called for collection, noting that “the weird part is that some collections were being made on weekends, which has never been the case under normal circumstances in our previous transactions.”
Minister of Health, Nkaku Kabi, confirmed he had heard about the allegations of NDSO engaging in the illegal sale of the Jack Ma Foundation’s donations to Lesotho.
The minister could not be drawn into discussing the matter in depth, only revealing the crime was brought to his attention by some local entrepreneurs “who made purchases from the NDSO and have presented the goods to me as evidence to their claims.”
“I heard the claims that NDSO has been selling the donated equipment and this came as a shock to me. I will not be able to give you full details of what I have found since I have to first inform the ministerial sub-committee on COVID-19 response about this,” Kabi said.
“If these allegations are true, it is shameful that when the country is being helped to fight this ravaging global pandemic unscrupulous individual start personal businesses with capital they did not work for.
“People responsible will have to face serious measure for such shameful acts. We are not supposed to be dealing with thieves at this time when we have to focus on saving the nation against this deadly virus,” Kabi said.
Contacted to react to the allegations NDSO Manager, Matebele Sefali, refuted the claims and said “most of the things which were brought to the NDSO upon arrival from Moshoeshoe I International Airport needed to be kept in cold storages at 20 degrees Celsius, and we did not have such fridges.
“As a result those goods were taken to the National Referral Laboratory in Maseru.
“The donation arrived on March 26, and on the 28, which was a Saturday, we commenced distribution; the nose masks were forwarded to the District Health Management Teams and the work ended on Sunday March 27 with deliveries to Mokhotlong and Qacha’s Nek,” Sefali explained.
Sefali said what remained of the donated equipment were only 10 000 nose masks.
“As far as I am concerned the NDSO officers have not sold any part of the COVID-19 donation, but we have been informed that the police Criminal Investigation Department and the National Security Services agents have been called in to probe the allegations,” Sefali said.
Landlocked by South Africa, Lesotho has not recorded any confirmed case of COVID-19 infection and remains the only Southern African state with zero infection – South Africa has since recorded over a two thousand cases, with 27 deaths.