Health Legal and Parliamentary Affiars

NatPharm Board saga: ZACC castigated for arresting in order to investigate


As investigations continue to absolve the National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm) board of any wrongdoing, the Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission has come under fire for “arresting in order to investigate.”

According to the recently established Public Entities Corporate Governance Act (Chapter 10.31) that is administered by the Office of the President and cabinet (OPC) Corporate Governance Unit, the board reports to the appointing authority, the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

It is believed that when ZACC received an anonymous tip-off from one of the fired NatPharm managers believed to be in the human resources department, the officers from the anti-corruption entity immediately called the board members to its Avondale branch.

Unbeknown to them, the board members who turned up at the office were immediately charged for criminal abuse of duty as public officers as defined in Section 174 (1) (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9.23.

“When cases of such nature are reported, ZACC is expected to among other things, interview officials from the corporate governance unit of the OPC, the Ministry of Health and child Care and its permanent secretary to establish the facts on the ground.

“As it stands, none of the above common law procedures were followed. The contract of the NatPharm Managing Director, Mrs. Flora Sifeku expired way before the appointment of the current board.  For context, prior to the appointment of the current board, NatPharm had operated for eight months without a board between October 2018 and June 2019. Upon appointment, the board became seized with the issue of the absence of a written contract of appointment of Mrs. Sikefu,” said an insider at NatPharm.

A legal expert based in Harare, Mr. Webby Jiti said that the board’s statutory mandate is not simply to dismiss a serving CEO or managing director of a state entity but to do so lawfully, reasonably and with minimum disruption to the organisation’s mandate.

“One of the key considerations is that the process of terminating a CEO of a national strategic organisation like Natpharm must be obviously accompanied by a process for his or her replacement.,” Jiti said.

 It’s interesting to note that the NatPharm board was already seized with this matter such that if ZACC had done thorough investigations, it would have established that the OPC corporate governance unit and the ministry of health were aware of the employment status of Mrs. Sikefu and the process which the board had commenced to secure the termination of her employment contract, read a leaked letter addressed to the minister of health.

Information gleaned by Spiked Online Media reveals that Mrs. Sifeku’s contract of employment had already been terminated by the NatPharm board before the arrest of some of its members.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende