For close to a decade, Chitambo council officials in Central Province have used an incomplete Mukando health centre project to siphon Constituency Development Funds (CDF) for their personal benefit.
Yet mothers continue to deliver babies in the back of trucks and vans, on their way to the hospital, because of unavailable health facilities.
Mukando health centre project started in 2014 when the first set of building materials were procured using CDF, but that first consignment disappeared.
A wide range of sources have told MakanDay that the materials that disappeared have not been traced to this day and no arrests have been made.
Testimonies from the community
A community member with direct access to the project accounts has revealed that K59,000 from CDF was allocated for Mukando health post in 2014.
But materials bought from with that money vanished without trace.
In 2020, K90,000 was set aside for the incomplete project which has so far gobbled K169,000, said the source who has asked to remain anonymous.
Two companies were engaged to supply building materials for the project and both confirmed honouring their contracts. One of the companies supplied materials worth K195,000.
A source at the company that supplied all the building materials, including roofing sheets, doorframes and doors, quarry dust, blocks, timber, paint, stones, and cement said the council is yet to settle full payment for services rendered by the company.
“We delivered building materials at the council office between 2014 and 2015, but the council still owes the company K18,500 for transport,” he said.
Another company confirmed it supplied materials at a cost of K51,249.00 in October 2015.
MakanDay understands that the cash flow which has steadily disappeared from the project’s allocated budget since 2014 was enough to complete the modest single-block health post building, yet no-one raised the alarm.
What is worrying is that at the grassroots, CDF administrative authority heavily relies on the CDF committee, consisting of a wide array of community, professional and government representatives, led by an elected chairperson.
And yet in the case of the Mukando health care project, no one has raised the alarm, despite the inclusive composition of CDF committee.
The council leadership is at sea
Chitambo council chairperson, Brian Mwelwa who gave conflicting figures told MakanDay that the project started before he came into office.
“The files indicate the first allocation was K50,000, then an addition K70,000, and the final amount of K75,000, which was going to complete the entire project,” he said.
Mwelwa said the case of theft was reported to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) in October last year, but investigations have taken long.
He alleged that the first consignment of building materials was stolen by one of the council employees who was later fired.
Both ACC and DEC are yet to respond to a request from MakanDay for comment on the ongoing investigations.
A plea from mothers
Although the health post is not going to eliminate all healthcare challenges faced by the Mukando community, once completed, it will help mothers like 25-year-old Eunice Kalunga, who gave birth in a car on her way to the hospital.
“I started feeling labour pains around 22:00 hours but when my mother finally arranged for a vehicle to take me to the clinic, I gave birth to a baby boy,” said the 25-year-old.
She told MakanDay that she is not the only one to give birth on the way to hospital.
“The nearest health centre we have here is Muchinka health post which is about 10 kilometres from here, another one is Mwimbula hospital 22 kilometres and Chitambo Mission Hospital is about 47 kilometers,” she said.
As coverup for the mess, the council has been pressuring the district health office to open the unfinished health post.
But Chitambo district health director Dr Jackson Phiri, said he has been avoiding the council’s demands to have the centre opened.
“There is no incinerator, no water reticulation at the health facility, and looking at the population of the area there is need for an extra building for a maternity ward,” he said. “The health facility is not fenced and it has no source of power.”
Political leaders at sea
Chitambo Member of Parliament Chanda Mutale, said the CDF committee has provided more money for the health post to be completed.
“When I took over as MP in 2016, I found the project and the clinic was built and the Ministry of Health gave out guidelines refusing to accept the way it is as a clinic adding that we need to build a fence, waterborne toilet, incinerator among others,” he said.
Mutale could not disclose how much has been allocated for the completion of the health post.
His predecessor Mushili Malama, who was MP for the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) party between 2011 and 2016 is surprised that the project is yet to be completed.