By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The issue of conflict of interest has been a recurring theme in The Gambia in various sectors of the country. Last week the Ministry of Health (MoH) Published the Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) Taskforce Report which shed light on the environment of conflict of interest in the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) which allowed contaminated drugs to be imported into the country from Indian company Maiden Pharmaceuticals and distributed by Atlantic Pharmaceuticals.
Unfortunately, this has resulted in the death of at least 73 children with 70 dying in 2022 while a further 3 died in 2023. The AKI Taskforce Report recommended the dismissal of MCA Executive Director Madam Markieu Janneh Kaira who was not identified as a conflicted person. Meanwhile, the MCA Deputy Executive Director Madam Fatoumatta Jah Sowe who was also dismissed was identified as conflicted. However, there are more conflicted persons listed in the report.
According to the report, “it is standard acceptable practice that one cannot be a judge in his or her own case. It is against good conscience to be the referee and the player at the same time. This, in simple terms, outlines the lack of justification for conflict of interest”. The AKI Taskforce highlights that “conflict of interest shall arise where you have a staff or member of the Board of MCA serving as a supervising pharmacist for private pharmaceutical companies“.
According to the report “five staff of the MCA have contracts as supervising pharmacists in various pharmaceutical companies. This raised a possible conflict of interest”. However, the AKI Taskforce Report highlights a list of 11 people identified as conflicted. Key amongst them is Mr Tijan Jallow who worked as a MCA Regulating Officer as well as a Supervising Chemist for Atlantic Pharmaceuticals.
According to the report Mr Tijan Jallow “argued that the death of the 70 children could not be conclusively linked to the contaminated cough and cold syrups due to the fact that there were other factors such as diseases associated with flooding“.
Mr Sait Kebbeh is not listed as conflicted because he was not working for the Government and instead worked for Atlantic Pharmaceuticals. However, he recruited Mr Tijan Jallow to take over from him as Supervising Chemist while Jallow was still working for the MCA.
Mr Kebbeh parrots the same false message of children dying from floods in the report. The report notes that they have failed to present any statistics of children whom they say died from AKI but did not take any of the medicines. Regarding Conflict of Interest Mr Kebbeh “argued that he found the practice of working for a regulatory body and doubling as a supervising pharmacist already in place, that he was not informed by any of his colleagues that he needed to receive clearance from the relevant authorities to do so and thus, he did not”.
According to the AKI Taskforce Report Mr Kebbeh “only inspects the documents sent to Atlantic Pharmacy from a technical perspective to see whether they are in line with standards required”. The report adds that Mr Kebbeh admits to “not [being] able to ascertain that the medicines imported meet the required standard due to the lack of testing on the part of the regulator”.
However, Gainako conducted a simple desktop study which reveals that Maiden Pharmaceuticals had a track record of producing poisonous medicines which have killed people and also been banned on numerous occasions. A simple desktop study by Mr Kebbeh and the staff of Atlantic Pharmaceuticals would have demonstrated Maiden Pharmaceuticals’ poor track record and saved the lives of over 73 innocent children.
To date, only the MCA Executive Director and the MCA Deputy Executive Director have been fired and are set to face further action from the Police. The report fails to recommend any serious action against Mr Sait Kebbeh or Mr Tijan Jallow. It’s understood that Mr Sait Kebbeh who was the main Supervising Chemist for Atlantic Pharmaceuticals is currently out of the jurisdiction and studying in Ghana.