Friday, 19 July, 2024
HomeMedico-LegalHealth MEC ‘meddled unlawfully’ in R10m dodgy scooter tender, inquiry hears

Health MEC ‘meddled unlawfully’ in R10m dodgy scooter tender, inquiry hears

The Eastern Cape Health Department’s controversial R10.14m tender to buy motorcycles to be used as mobile clinics was a project of then Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba long before the pandemic emerged, it was revealed in the findings of a disciplinary inquiry into former Health Department head Thobile Mbengashe.

The department used the promulgation of legitimate emergency regulations to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic as cover to rush through the procurement of 100 motorcycles with sidecars, reports News24.

A whistle-blower’s disclosure led the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to bring an urgent interdict application in the tribunal, which issued a final order in 2021 to set aside the tender.

Gomba was fired as part of corrective action taken by Premier Oscar Mabuyane after earlier findings by the SIU.

She was not an accused in the inquiry, chaired by Advocate Peter Kroon SC, who, however, made a series of findings relating to her role in the scooter project.

He said the former MEC had “outrageously” meddled in operational issues, and instead of confining her role to “political oversight”, she was managing and directing the entire scooter procurement process.

She had “expressed an interest, if not a desire” for the scooters’ procurement long before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a meeting she chaired on 13 December 2019, she said the scooters should be displayed at a June 2020 launch, to be attended by then Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

Later, Gomba instructed the head of the Health Department’s supply chain management (SCM) unit, Celewa Mgijima, to utilise a special five-day procurement provision to implement the tender and to finalise specifications for the units.

Kroom described the direct instruction to Mgijima as “patently unlawful”, saying any political interference in the operations of the department's administration was strictly prohibited. By instructing the SCM unit head to follow a procedure for a R10m contract, the MEC broke the rule against a political office bearer interfering in the domain of the accounting officer.

The findings were handed down at the end of a disciplinary inquiry brought by Mabuyane against Mbengashe, who was the Premier's special adviser since vacating his head of department post in September 2020.

He was also cleared of fruitless and wasteful expenditure since no scooters were delivered, nor did the department disburse any funds.

However, Kroon found Mbengashe guilty of negligence for a series of decisions – wrongly regarding the scooter procurement as an emergency, allowing for a truncated five-day bid period, and failing to ensure the tender was advertised in the Government Tender Bulletin and e-portal.

 

News24 article – https://www.news24.com/news24/southafrica/news/r10m-dodgy-tender-inquiry-details-fired-health-mecs-meddling-in-covid-19-scooter-project-20221102

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Eastern Cape abandons scooter ambulance project

 

SIU Tribunal: Health MEC must answer over scooter saga

 

EC to continue with controversial scooter project

 

 

 

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