PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Dec. 5) - The ugly history of criminal fraud and racketeering in the public health system in our country has suddenly become far uglier than we had thought.

Not only are medicines being wasted by being mislaid and left unaccounted for on shelves, not only are valuable drugs being siphoned off onto the black market . . . now there are allegations that the illegal trade is endangering our peoples lives!

An Australian television news group has filmed what appears to have been the under-counter trading of anti-snake poison.

Newly appointed Health Minister Sasa Zibe was the man who posed as a buyer at a pharmacy outlet in Port Moresby. He was filmed, asking for the anti-venom to counter snake bite and was allegedly offered it for PGK2,500 in cash. The seller would not accept payment by bank card, leading to suspicions about the anti-venom’s origin and legitimacy.

Mr. Zibe said the drug being sold to him was not even suitable for PNG conditions. It was he said for cobra bites and could have devastating results if administered here.

Zibe is naturally aggrieved by the filmed episode. He is also aware of the allegations raised in these pages in the recent past that much of the Government’s medical stores have been ripped off or run down by bureaucratic incompetence or by deliberate fraud.

His predecessor, Sir Peter Barter, was similarly aghast when he found out the extent of the waste and criminality.

Zibe is calling for an investigation into his department. With a new head of department and a new minister, this could be the best chance to get something radical done about the situation.

Zibe and Health Secretary Clement Malau must pull out all stops to scourge the department of the "rotten eggs" and to look at the outside sources of temptation.

The people of Papua New Guinea deserve nothing less than a complete overhaul of the department and its procedures, including the purchasing system and the accounting for stock.

Off-beat methods of the sort used by Zibe are to be applauded … especially if it leads to worthwhile reform.

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