Herald Reporters
Police have opened investigations into Permanent Secretary for Health and Child Care Dr Gerald Gwinji and 493 other ministry officials who allegedly looted a huge chunk of the $1,5 million released by Treasury for health workers’ on-call and night duty allowances.Police sources yesterday said the matter was being handled by detectives from the CID Serious Frauds Squad.

It emerged yesterday that the case is being treated so seriously that Chief Superintendent Nekodimo Rukwanda and four others viewed as dragging their feet in the investigations have been transferred from CID Serious Frauds Squad to other sections in different parts of the country.

The transfers were with immediate effect yesterday and the officers have since been replaced.

According to the police sources, the Ministry of Health and Child Care will conduct an audit to ascertain the amount of money which the suspects abused and the results would help the police come up with proper charges.

“The police will start recording evidence from Dr Gwinji and his subordinates once this audit, which is expected to last a few days, is completed,” said the source.

It could not be immediately established how much Dr Gwinji was receiving for on-call allowances, but his other senior officials were drawing up to $403 per month.

What has raised eyebrows is that Dr Gwinji and his colleagues do not work at night and were not entitled to the money.

This is in sharp contrast with nurses who carry out the actual night duty, but are getting a paltry $3 per month as allowances for the work.

Nurses have been on strike since Monday last week demanding that their night duty allowances be increased and their demands helped expose Dr Gwinji and his directors.

On Wednesday, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa confirmed that senior officials in his ministry were getting the undeserved on-call and night duty allowances.

“How those people got these allowances, we do not know,” he said. “Kuti vakazviisa ipapo sei, we do not know, so we are investigating them fully.

“Takataura kuti we are investigating them. Those who were getting it (on-call allowances) are not getting it anymore and we are investigating them thoroughly.”

The Health Services Board is the employer of all health workers in the country.

The same anomalies were revealed when officials from the Zimbabwe Nurses ‘Association approached the Chief’s Council led by Chief Fortune Charumbira on Tuesday to air their grievances.

Zina Harare provincial chairperson Mr Enock Dongo led the team that met Chief Charumbira and other chiefs where they raised a number of malpractices bedevilling management.

On-call duty is an emergency call for health personnel to report for duty when there is an emergency at night.

Documents seen by The Herald indicate that three principal directors and directors of Epidemiology and Disease Control, Government Analyst Laboratory, Laboratory Services, National Institute of Health Research and Oral Health pocketed at least $403 every month.

It could not be established if those who benefited were substantive principal directors or those who were acting.

Some of the officials who dubiously got on-call allowances were computer technicians, nurse tutor, pharmacy technicians, system administrator and hospitals equipment technicians.

Ironically, the majority of the officials were also implicated in the scandal that rocked the Health Transition Fund sometime last year when they benefited more than the intended beneficiaries.