The cash-strapped Limpopo Health Department has tried – and failed – to have nearly R100m worth of irregular expenditure written off by the provincial treasury earlier this year. The Citizen reports that in a leaked letter, the province’s treasury head of department Gavin Pratt responds to an application by the department for condonation of irregular expenditure incurred in the 2012/13 and 2014/15 financial years.
Treasury declined the application and, instead, instructed the department to open a criminal case, which the department has yet to do.
The report says the letter from Pratt reads: “The irregular expenditure application in the amount of R98 214 955.06 will be reconsidered after the Limpopo Department of Health has opened a criminal case with the SA Police Service, to investigate whether role-players did not receive any gratification in terms of section 10 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004.”
The irregular expenditure relates to three tenders that were awarded without due process for providing coal, laundry services, and groceries.
The report says one of the contracts was exposed by City Press in 2015, after Mphefhedzi Business Enterprises was awarded the tender, despite the company not meeting the required criteria. Mphefhedzi was contracted to service 22 hospitals in Limpopo in a tender worth R24.5m.
Spokesperson for the provincial health department Neil Shikwambana said there was “a good reason” for the application for condonation. He added that the department had not yet opened a criminal case because the matter was still being negotiated with the National Treasury. “This submission to National Treasury or any relevant authority is made due to the fact that good reason exists to consider condonation by the approving authority or Treasury, as quoted by the inquirer,” he said.
“On the issue of the charges, as you might have seen in the contents of the letter that was leaked to you, the matter is still between the Limpopo provincial treasury and the National Treasury and engagements are still underway at that level. Once that process is concluded, the provincial treasury will bring the matter to us. If there are recommendations which will require us to implement, we will duly comply.”
The DA’s member of the provincial legislature on health, Langa Bodlwana, is quoted in the report as saying that the legislature was currently dealing with several applications for condonation by the Limpopo Health Department which, he added, was in such a dire financial situation, it could no longer meet its obligations for the next financial year.
Bodlwana said: “The information that we have is that there are so many legal matters that the department is involved with that they have simply refused to give us details of, and the department continues unabatedly to be in financial shambles.
“We have been on record to say that the department needs to be placed under administration and as we speak, they are sitting in arrears of close to R1bn. Therefore, they can’t do anything for the current financial year in terms of procurement because they are faced with so much litigation and irregular expenditure, in the region of billions.”The Citizen report