SOME members of staff at a private laboratory, Klosad Clinical Diagnostics Lab, in Harare’s Avondale suburb, are issuing out certificates with fake negative Covid-19 results to international travellers without going through the testing process, investigations by our Harare Bureau have revealed.
The corrupt syndicate is producing the fake Covid-19 certificates at a price of US$45 each instead of the recommended US$65 charged by most institutions for a legitimate Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test that is a prerequisite 48 hours before international travel.
Our Harare Bureau received a tip-off and embarked on a week-long investigation to confirm and expose the illicit activity that is hampering efforts to fight Covid-19 which is ravaging the country.
Posing as clients, our crew separately paid for and received fake certificates at 20 Lanark Road, Avondale where the lab is situated, without being tested. Investigations revealed that the laboratory is owned by the former Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Obadiah Moyo.
Further investigations showed that the corrupt syndicate operating at the laboratory comprises front-office workers, lab technicians, management and security guards with one worker identified as Mr Anesu Nyamugama fronting the team. The syndicate targets cross-border travellers, mainly traders and job seekers who want to avoid the inconvenience or cut costs of being tested.
After the news crew got wind of the corrupt activities at Klosad, the undercover team visited the lab on Friday 8 January 2021 and engaged Mr Nyamugama and indicated to him that they needed fake certificates at a cut-price.
An unsuspecting Mr Nyamugama asked the crew to return in a couple of days as he wanted to organise with workmates first.
The crew exchanged phone numbers with Mr Nyamugama who communicated regularly via WhatsApp, using his the number 0775438768.
On Monday 11 January 2021, the certificates were produced at the price of US$45 each. The crew paid US$45 for one certificate (which was handed over immediately) and another ZWL$4 500 for the second document via EcoCash to the number 0775438768 using the exchange rate of US$1 to ZWL $100. This second certificate was collected on Tuesday 12 January 2021.
Our Harare Bureau has WhatsApp chats, proof of payments and call records of its interaction and transactions with Mr Nyamugama. The EcoCash number is also registered in the name Anesu Nyamugama. The certificates were signed off by two different people, one by a C Guzha and the other by a T Tenesi while B Nyakuedzwa approved both certificates, indicating that the syndicate is tightly-knit and involves a wide network of people.
At no point did Mr Nyamugama offer to provide Covid-19 testing to the crew, which witnessed other prospective travellers undergoing PCR testing at the busy lab.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Nyathi said the police would look into the matter.
“We have already arrested individuals and syndicates selling fake certificates at Robert Mugabe International Airport, Beitbridge Border Post and Chirundu Border Post. We are aware that there are some who are operating underground and we urge members of the public who have information about such operations to come forward so that we can begin investigations.”
Klosad is among the laboratories that have been approved by the Government to conduct Covid-19 testing.
Covid-19 Chief Co-ordinator Dr Agnes Mahomva said authorities are escalating surveillance systems to fish out those selling fake certificates. Dr Moyo, who owns the lab, said he and other senior management were unaware that their employees were issuing fake certificates.
When our Harare Bureau presented to him evidence of the fake certificates, Dr Moyo checked with his subordinates and corroborated that the fake certificates were not in Klosad’s database and promised to take action against the culprits.
“We have checked the records and indeed your names do not appear and we are going to make a police report right away. These are just a few bad apples who will be dealt with. We are now dealing with those responsible and we want to assure the public that this will never happen again as we offer a professional service,” he said. – Sunday News