Friday, May 29, 2009

Caughtya with 10 Billion Kwacha

Within a short two weeks – some of my frustrations with working in African countries have flooded back – no country is immune to corruption and misappropriation of funds, but it seems to be magnified on this continent.  The big news in the MOH over the last few weeks has been the 10 billion kwacha (2 million dollars) that has disappeared into the pockets of some very high up officials.   Having just returned from four rural clinics with absolutely no clean delivery kits and dropping a woman off at a district hospital without any aspirin to offer patients for pain, I find this even more enraging. 

When I arrived, only one person very high up in HR was implicated, but this week, several more arrests have been made in the accounts and planning departments, including the Director of Planning, who I met with on my first day in the office.  Anti-corruption police are everywhere and the general sentiment is fear in the office (everyone’s personal accounts are being investigated) and retribution in the public.  Even more money is being spent on the investigation and then the court proceedings – people want them locked up without another penny wasted on judicial processes...and frankly, I agree.  Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands have frozen their aid to the MOH, until the government takes some serious action.  On some levels, I agree with their stance in pressuring the government to act swiftly, but unfortunately, the wrong people will be the victims of these measures and even less supplies will make it to the communities I have visited.

In terms of my work, many of the challenges with rolling out the program have been hold ups within both those department under investigation.  I fear it is only going to get worse in the next few months...especially since the staff has decreased considerably in both those departments, given the arrests made this week.  

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