SIU Tribunal: Health MEC must answer over scooter saga

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Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba blamed apartheid for the murky acquisition of 100 scooters with side-cars to use as mobile clinics has been summonsed to appear before the Special Investigating Unit Tribunal.

The SIU has laid bare how the Eastern Cape Health Department’s efforts to buy 100 scooters to use as mobile clinics was defined by irregularity, dishonesty and possible collusion, with only 10 of the bikes ready for delivery two months after they were ordered, reports Business Day.

Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba had previously blamed apartheid infrastructure for the saga, saying, ‘Our people must be dragged in wheelbarrows to access health services’.

The SIU stated in court papers:“Regard should be taken of the fact that, if the intended purpose was to address the COVID-19 challenges, more than two months has elapsed and Fabkomp (the company that won the tender to supply the scooters) has still not delivered fully in terms of the tender.”

Business Day reports that in papers filed at the Special Tribunal, the SIU details how the Eastern Cape Health moved with “an unexplained and unusual haste” in initiating and then publishing the tender, which was advertised on the department’s website for five days. No approval was given by National Treasury for it to be treated as an emergency tender.

According to the SIU, the tender process that followed was defined by irregularity, which included the strange and as yet unexplained elimination of ZenCare, the only other company who bid for the tender, on the grounds that it was “non-responsive”.

Furthermore, the SIU said, “it is apparent that the Fabkomp tender did not satisfy all the requirements for compliance and functionality” outlined by the department’s bid specification committee.

“Despite this, its tender was recommended as having scored 100% in all the set evaluation criteria. The results from the bid evaluation committee were clearly irrational, if not clouded with ulterior motives.”

According to the SIU, it was only after the bid evaluation committee recommended that Fabkomp be awarded the tender that the company’s facilities were inspected on 30 April. “By that date a decision had already been made and an attempt to test the functionality aspect of the motorcycles was merely to try to cover all the requirements of the tender,” the SIU told the tribunal.

“This clearly renders the recommendations made by the bid evaluation committee irrational, given that it had not evaluated the bids through all the required criteria when it recommended that Fabkomp be awarded the tender.”

The report says Fabkomp has denied any wrongdoing and is expected to fight the SIU’s application to invalidate the motorcycle tender.

 

The Eastern Cape’s Sindiswa Gomba has become the second health MEC to be taken to task over financial irregularities relating to COVID-19 after her department procured the 100 scooters to use as mobile clinics at a cost of R10m, reports Business Day.

The SIU Special Tribunal, established by President Cyril Ramaphosa to fast-track the recovery of funds lost to corruption or irregular spending during the lockdown, announced that Gomba will appear before it. She will be joined by the department’s superintendent-general Dr Thobile Mbengashe, CFO Msulwa Daca and Fabkomp, the company that was awarded the scooter tender.

The failed scooter project was initially aimed at transporting patients in rural areas to clinics and hospitals in a way that would limit the spread of COVID-19. However, health minister Zweli Mkhize said in July that the scooters did not meet the basic criteria for “patient transport as an ambulance” and that the national health department was not consulted on the specifications before the scooters were procured.

It was reported that Gomba blamed apartheid for the saga, saying the coronavirus pandemic had exposed the “weaknesses of our health system, and that is linked to the design of apartheid infrastructure. Our people must be dragged in wheelbarrows to access health services”.

Business Day reports that the SIU contends that awarding the R10m contract was done “in contravention of the provisions of section 217 of the constitution, the Public Finance Management Act and Treasury regulations”, according to Selby Makgotho, spokesperson of the special tribunal.

 

Full Business Day report

 

 

See also

EC controversy over motorbike ambulances and clinics

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