Zimbabwe’s health minister has been charged with criminal abuse of duty as a public officer, after illegally awarding a multi-million-dollar contract for COVID-19 medical supplies to a shadowy company.
The country’s anti-corruption agency arrested on Friday Obadiah Moyo, a former hospital administrator, and the government cancelled the contracts following public uproar.
He appeared in court on Saturday over allegations that he illegally handed a contract for COVID-19 testing kits, drugs and personal protective equipment to a shadowy company at inflated prices that included face masks for US$28 (£22) each.
The health minister could be fined or face up to 15 years in prison if he is convicted.
According to the charge sheet, Mr. Moyo “exerted pressure” on his subordinates to award the contracts worth US$60 million (£48 million) last year and this year.
One of the Zimbabwean president’s sons was forced to issue a statement denying a link to the company involved after pictures emerged of the Zimbabwean representative of the firm with Emmerson Mnangagwa and his wife and sons at several events.
The representative, Delish Nguwaya, and some top officials of the national drugs procurement agency are already facing criminal charges related to the scandal.
Mr. Nguwaya is accused of lying in saying the company was a drugs manufacturing company based in Switzerland, “whereas it was merely a consulting company with no experience in the manufacture of drug and medical products”, according to the charge sheet.
The scandal comes as health professionals including nurses and doctors in Zimbabwe are on strike demanding to be paid their salaries in US dollars.
They argue that inflation that is now above 750% and the erosion of the value of the local currency has rendered incomes worthless.
The health professionals have also complained about lack of adequate protective gear as the number of coronavirus cases rises.
Zimbabwe has reported around 460 infections to date, according to a Reuters global count.
Meanwhile, the official death toll stood at four on Saturday. (Source: Independent UK)