Blantyre Police has arrested four people in connection with a heavy duty washing machine worth $8,500 (K6,035,000) that disappeared from Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (Qech) in broad daylight two weeks ago.
The machine was used to clean hospital linen and is as big as a small room for a medium Malawian house.
Blantyre Police deputy publicist, Andrew Mayawo, said it is suspected that the four, Maintenance Supervisor, Francis Gwiranani, (52); Philip Malitino (45); Welder, Yohane Kankhuni, (46); and Gerald Maunde (whose age is yet to be identified) connived to steal the washing machine from the referral hospital.
“Qech reported theft of a washing machine on August 9, 2016. We learnt that Gwiranani went to head of laundry section telling him that the washing machine was not functioning well and needed to be taken to the maintenance section. But he [laundry section head] was surprised to hear that a guard had witnessed four people taking the machine to an unknown destination,” he explained.
The Daily Times has learnt that the four were arrested two days after Ministry of Health officials visited Qech to investigate the matter, following our story that exposed the theft. We have been reliably informed that initially, Qech management wanted to settle the matter within the institution without involving the police.
They asked Gwiranani to just return the machine for fear that if the matter is reported to the police, he may lose his job and benefits but he failed to do so, hence the arrests.
Mayawo said police are yet to locate where the machine is but identified it as type XTQ_30H and strider number 22844 valued at $8500 (K6, 035, 000).
The four appeared before court on Friday and they have been charged with theft by public servant.
“Meanwhile, they are on remand at Chichiri Prison as we are continuing with our investigations,” Mayawo said.
This year, there have been several cases of theft at Qech despite the hospital having a total of 122 guards. Ninety-two guards are hired from a company (Kwacha Guard Alert) and 30 are permanent employees.
In its recommendation to the facility after they received a written complaint from some Qech members of staff, Ministry of Health advised Qech management to seek compensation from Kwacha Guard Alert.
But Managing Director for Kwacha Guard Alert, George Kajumo, has distanced his company from the security lapses at Qech.
“We are on contract and we can’t just mess it anyhow. We ensure that our guards are at all strategic places of the hospital entrances. We initially had our guard at all entrances and exits but we were advised to reduce the number due to funding difficulties but we are still managing,” he said.
Gwiranani hails from Chikuse Village, Traditional Authority (T/A)Mpama in Chiradzulu; Malitino comes from Josamu Village in T/A Somba, Blantyre while Kankhuni is from Dzungu Village T/A Bvumbwe in Thyolo.
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