The Public Protector has found the Eastern Cape Health Department did not follow due process in procuring medical scooters for R10m to transport patients, reports TimesLIVE.
The department purchased the motorcycles in 2020 after getting complaints from rural communities that ambulances could not reach the sick and elderly due to poor road infrastructure. But TimesLIVE reports, the procurement was criticised with many observers questioning the type of care that would be delivered to patients and whether the scooters would be able to traverse poor roads.
Questions were also raised over the cost of the project and to whom the tender was awarded.
Acting Public Protector, Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka, said the probe had determined that the procurement process followed by the department to supply the scooters was improper.
To remedy this maladministration and improper conduct, Gcaleka said the acting head of EC Health should take the appropriate steps in respect of disciplinary action in terms of the Public Finance Management Act and the applicable policies of the department against officials involved in and responsible for the non-compliance within 90 days from the date of the report.
According to Daily Maverick, the report shows how the department failed to follow proper procedure in each step of awarding the contract.
The Public Protector’s report said: “The concept of using motorcycles/scooters was introduced in the ECDoH before the country experienced COVID-19. The motorcycles/scooters could not therefore be treated as an emergency procurement under the guise of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Public Protector said disciplinary hearings should be held for all implicated department officials within 90 days. She made no adverse findings against Premier Oscar Mabuyane, who said he played no role in the procurement.
Jane Cowley, the DA shadow MEC for Health in the Eastern Cape said that Mabuyane, and the Health Department must act on the Public Protector's final report. Cowley said: “The Public Protector was clear about two things – there was clear maladministration and improper conduct around the tender process, and disciplinary action must be taken against the officials who were involved in the procurement process.
This will be a test for both the new head of the Health Department, Dr Zungu, and the Premier.
“Zungu has the unenviable task of disciplining some very senior officials, who have in the past been untouchable and the Premier needs to take disciplinary steps against the previous department head, Dr Mbengashe, who is now one of his personal advisors.
“Premier Mabuyane made it clear that he wishes to preside over a clean government. There is only one way to do that and that is to apply consequence management when it is due.
“The flouting of supply chain regulations, Treasury regulations and the Constitution when entering into contracts for goods and services is a very serious matter and deserves more than a slap on the wrist.”
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