The Sunday News
AN article about a scam involving livestock vaccines caught my attention. The article was in our sister paper, The Herald of 9 May 2019.
The article was refuting allegations that had been made against staff from the Department of Veterinary Services who are alleged to have diverted Government-provided vaccines and drugs into the black market for sale.
However, what caught my eye was not the denial by the official from the department but his further justification that in fact, staff members are not selling drugs obtained from Government cabins because Government has not provided drugs to the department for years but the employees are importing the vaccines and drugs on their own for resale in order to help the farmer.
While this may sound very innocent at a glance, my view is that there is a serious conflict of interest in such a situation.
Where is the line drawn between fleecing farmers and helping them by the department employee-cum-drug entrepreneur?
The line becomes blurred with time and a simple helping invention turns into outright milking of the farmers. It has been known that even regarding drugs for human beings some drugs which are used by patients on a regular basis such as hypertension medication sometimes are said to be out of stock from Government pharmacies and as the dejected patient walks away from the pharmacy somehow a “tout” conveniently emerges from nowhere and reveals that the same drug which is out of stock is available at some hospital personnel’s residence within the hospital compound.
Needless to say the price will be high and because it’s a critical drug which the patient needs there is no option. Now what stops the pharmacy technician to claim that the drug is out of stock even if it is available just to push his/her own stock?
This is where I have a problem with veterinary personnel selling drugs straight from their offices or pockets directly to the farmer.
It is open to abuse at the detriment of the farmers. Four years ago working with livestock farmers in some district in Matabeleland North, I forgot to buy a dosing chemical which we needed for animals going into the feedlot and there was no veterinary drug shop close by except several kilometres away in Bulawayo. I got the information that I could get the dosing chemical from the veterinary office and I got the shock of my life. A very common simple dosing remedy which was selling for around $4 in Bulawayo by then, was being sold for $10 in that vet office. What kind of fleecing is that? What do you think will happen if by some chance Government sent a small allocation of such drugs or chemicals to that office for sale to the farmers? The guy will buy them all at the cheaper price and hang the farmers by their skin! While it is appreciated that the department’s staff involved in such practice will be trying to cope and survive in an undisputedly difficult economy, let them open a small formal outlet somewhere at their town or growth point and trade from there and not sell from Government veterinary shelves because the conflict of interest is so glaring.
Actually the Masvingo cases where some staff are alleged to be importing the vaccines and other drugs for sale to the farmers is problematic because we may begin to have trading on drugs which have not been approved by the relevant drug controlling body. We cannot have everyone going out to buy drugs and walk in to trade with farmers.
This will expose farmers to unregistered drugs and the result can be bad. It is my opinion that Government should be lobbied to provide the drugs that it normally provides to farmers and let the rest be traded by registered veterinary drugs stores.
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