The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe into Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) procurement found most companies awarded contracts were not accredited or certified to handle or distribute the equipment, according to a report in The Sunday Independent.
Last year, reports MedicalBrief, at least R2 billion went to such companies, but the figure is expected to double if not triple after the completion of the SIU probe, the report says.
As the intensity of the investigations reaches its final stretch, sources close to the matter reportedly said the SIU was shocked at the level of irregular contracts awarded to undeserving companies. “The amount of corruption and disregard for the processes we witnessed is genuinely unbelievable. Officials disregarded the norms and standards and dished out the contracts as though it was giving candy to schoolchildren,” an unnamed SIU source is quoted as saying.
The Medicines and Related Substances Act prohibits companies or individuals from selling medical devices, including PPE, without a licence. Companies need to register with the SA Health Products Authority (SAHPRA).
SAHPRA spokesperson Yuven Gounden said companies supplying PPE to healthcare facilities needed to be licensed. Head of SIU Advocate Andy Mothibi confirmed they had unearthed a long list of unlicensed companies being awarded contracts.
“Some companies were registered a few days before COVID-19 hit, and they received contracts. Some were car washes. That in itself tells us that those responsible for procurement deliberately overlooked the legal requirements and recklessly awarded these contracts to these non-qualifying companies,” Mothibi said. “In some instances, we found evidence of collusion. Departmental officials colluded with companies that don’t qualify to get contracts.”
The SIU is expected to release its findings into the procurement of PPE by the end of August.
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