The Ministry of Health is in the spotlight again after it emerged that a mosquito net procurement deal gone wrong could have cost the tax payer over Rwf10.5 billion.
In what could be one of the biggest scandals to rock a government institution in recent years, Minister for Health Dr Agnes Binagwaho said last week that the government paid Danish company Net Protect an estimated $15m to supply 3 million nets in 2013 only for it to supply substandard nets.
The ministry said it is preparing a legal suit against the firm, which has since refused to replace the nets or refund the money. The ineffective nets have been blamed for the recent increase in malaria cases.
“We are discussing with the Ministry of Justice to see the best way to go about this problem because Net Protect does not want to replace the nets or refund the money,” Dr Binagwaho said.
She however said the increase in malaria cases cannot be fully attributed to the nets, which were not manufactured with adequate insecticide to kill mosquitoes.
She said the increase in not in Rwanda alone as other countries have also reported increasing malaria cases. Minister Binagwaho said the 3 million nets, each procured at a cost of $5, were distributed to the citizens but a study done by the ministry showed that the nets were not 100 per cent effective.
“We found that the current mosquito nets being used in Rwanda do not have the capacity to kill mosquito because they were not sprayed with adequate insecticides to kill the insects, unlike the previous batch which had been supplied,” Dr Binagwaho said.
She said her ministry is working with the Ministry of Justice to see how the government can drag the Danish firm into international arbitration courts to resolve the matter.
Dr Binagwaho said apart from spending over $15m to procure the safety nets, the government also spent a lot of resources on importing and transporting them.
She said the nets, which were supplied by Balton Rwanda were imported on the recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Dr Binagwaho added that while the nets may not be 100 per cent effective, people are still encouraged to use them.
The high malaria increase is reportedly attributed to the rain season and swamps because the most affected areas are close to Akagera River.
Global warming and high temperature is also said to be among the major causes of malaria upsurge especially in African countries, which stimulate the multiplication of mosquitoes.
Currently, the statistics from Healthy Ministry indicate malaria death toll has decreased within the past two years.
However, the figures indicate that at least 412 malaria deaths have been recorded in 2013, while 352 deaths were registered in 2014.
In recent days, the Ministry of Health has also been under scrutiny over services provided by government hospitals and health centres, which fail to provide patients, particularly those using Mutuelle de Sante, with the necessary medications.
Complaints of patients being referred to private pharmacies to purchase costly medicine recommended by the doctor have been on the increase, with most ordinary Rwandans decrying the failure by government hospitals to provide prescribed drugs.
Dr Binagwaho said that if indeed it is true that patients are being referred to private pharmacies to buy medicine, the ministry will take appropriate action because the government has enough medicine for each hospital to provide prescribed drugs.