The National Drug Service Organisation has shifted blame of drugs shortage at hospitals to government, citing there was an unnecessary red tape in procurement processes that hampered timely distribution of the drugs.
The NDSO’s General Manager Matebele Sefali told the MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism that before they could deliver drugs to hospitals, the government had to first issue his organisation with a purchase order.
He said due to long processes and red tape involved in the government system, it seemed to take ages before purchase orders could be finalised and issued to the NDSO to deliver.
Based in Mafeteng, NDSO is a statutory body established as a trading account for the Ministry of Health. It is mandated to procure, store and distribute pharmaceuticals to over 200 health facilities nationwide.
But the Health Minister Nkaku Kabi has lashed out at the organisation’s alleged inefficiency while it gobbled multimillions of Maloti (M450 million per year) from the government.
Kabi observed there were perturbing incidences of pharmaceuticals shortage at health institutions supplied by the NDSO. But Sefali has counterargued the government is to blame for the mess.
“What often happens is that we procure the drugs and store them even before we get payment from the government. The government can then reimburse us.
“But processes take too long; it begins with filling and submitting a requisition to the Ministry of Health, which needs to go through procurement procedures of the government and this usually takes a very long time. They eventually get an approving purchases order which they submit to the NDSO. Only then can we deliver the needed drugs,” Sefali said.
He admitted there was an outcry over drugs shortage in some health centres they supplied.
“Over 90 percent of the times when there is an outcry of drugs shortage at government hospitals, it is due to unreleased purchases orders by the government itself.
“We have in a number of cases received hospitals’ pleas to distribute drugs because the red-tape of acquiring a purchases order was taking as long time and in turn affecting health provision services,” he said.
Sefali added they compiled yearly reports which always showed that government hospitals delayed ordering drugs and later cry.
“It is unfair to always have NDSO blamed for drugs shortage when there are clear problems which we don’t have control over,” he said.
Sefali added NDSO battled with serious financial challenges due to late payment of government orders.