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Contradictions in QECH machine case

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The Blantyre Magistrate’s Court on Monday gave the state 30 days to investigate more on matters pertaining to a case involving four Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) employees who are accused of stealing a washing machine at the institution.

The four, Francis Gwiranani (Maintenance Supervisor), Phillip Malitino, Yohane Kankhuni and Gerald Maunde are answering a charge of theft by public servant after they allegedly stole a heavy duty washing machine type XTQ_30H strider number 22844 valued at $8,500 (K6,035,000) from QECH.

Police Prosecutor, Damiano Kaputa, said one of the institution’s administrators, Kondwani Chisi, told the court that on August 9, 2016 he got a report that a laundry machine had been stolen from the hospital’s laundry section.

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He said it was reported that Gwiranani went to collect the machine, which is said to have been non-functional for two years, from the laundry section and told the officers that he wanted to create space for operational washing machines.

Kaputa said Gwiranani admitted to have taken out the machine from the laundry section but not taking it out of the hospital on a pick up car, as alleged, but to the maintenance department.

“He (Gwiranani) also said he had been removing spare parts from the said washing machine to maintain the other machines and used part of its board to maintain trolleys which are used to ferry patients within the hospital,” he said.

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But due to the contradictory statements which indicated that the washing machine was taken out of the hospital and another that the machine was within the hospital, the court went to QECH to verify if the machine was indeed there.

Judiciary Spokesperson, Mlenga Mvula, said the court went to the scene and later, the state asked for time to do more investigations.

“Senior Resident Magistrate, Viva Nyimba, gave the state 30 days to re-investigate the issue and continue with presentation of evidence,” he said.

The Daily Times has, however, learnt that the court found a washing machine which was dismantled, with most spare parts removed. It also transpired that this “washing machine” did not have any batch number certifying that it is indeed the alleged stolen machine.

In the first story that we carried about the alleged disappearance of a washing machine at QECH, we learnt that management of QECH wanted to conceal the issue for fear that the accused persons may lose their terminal benefits if convicted.

On August 11, 2016, QECH Principal Administrator, Chikumbutso Tambala, dismissed this fact and insisted that police were investigating the issue then.

The accused persons were arrested on August 19, 2016 and granted bail days later.

Last week, almost a month after the incident, the police said they had concluded investigations and were waiting for the magistrate to set a date.

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