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Public protector Mkhwebane probes KZN health tenders

Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Mkhwebane’s office confirmed that various contracts and tenders linked to the KZN health department were being investigated.

A contract and a tender related to two state-of-the-art cancer R120 million radiotherapy machines that have stood idle in Durban’s Addington Hospital for most of the past three years are being investigated by the Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Her spokesperson Oupa Segalwe on Thursday confirmed the investigations, saying that both the original tender awarded to Techmed Africa and the subsequent maintenance contract with KZN Oncology Inc were being investigated.

He has also confirmed that the Public Protector is also investigating a contract awarded to a company called MediTech, which was apparently awarded a multimillion-rand IT contract.

The Public Protector has merged these three investigations with another controversial 2012 tender where the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health leased a mobile clinic that consisted of a truck and trailer with a basic x-ray machines and ultra sound machines for R52.5 million over three years.

Both the Inkatha Freedom Party and the Democratic Alliance complained to the Public Protector about R61 million tender that resulted in Msanzi Lifecare (Pty) Ltd leasing the mobile clinic to the department.

The now defunct SA Press Association (Sapa) reported in January 2015 that the KwaZulu-Natal health department had awarded the R61 million tender to two companies — Mzansi Lifecare and Mobile Satellite Technologies.

Mzansi Lifecare was created a mere 17 days before the tender – ZNB 9281 / 2012-H – was advertised in the Government Gazette in June 2012.

Former KwaZulu-Natal health department head Dr Sibongile Zungu signed off on the lease in August 2013, agreeing that the department would pay Mzansi Lifecare R1.5 million every month until August this year to lease the vehicle without staff.

When the tender made headlines in January 2015 it emerged that the department could have purchased outright four similar units from the United States.

Segalwe said that the investigation into the mobile clinic was expected to be completed in September 2017.

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Asked why the different contracts were being combined into a single investigation, Segalwe said: “The respondent to the matters is KZN Department of Health and irregular contracts awarded within the Department, hence the files were combined.”

It was in a letter to the IFP’s health spokesperson Ncamisile Nkwanyana last month that Mkhwebane revealed the other investigations into Techmed and Meditech.

Queried about the letter Segalwe said in a written response to questions posed by ANA that the complaint against the two companies had been lodged anonymously.

The two RapidArc linear accelerators of Addington Hospital have had a turbulent history ever since TecMed was awarded the R120 million tender to install and maintain the machines in 2009.

That included the five-year R433,000 a month maintenance contract inclusive of VAT, meaning the machines and their installation cost about R94 million while the maintenance contract was worth almost R26 million over five years.

At some stage the relationship between TechMed and the KZN health department went sour and at the end of 2012 Techmed stopped servicing the machines as it had not been paid for nine months.

The former Head of Department Dr Sibongile Zungu as well as provincial health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo have claimed that there was corruption in the deal, with Dhlomo also claiming they were supplied old machines, despite the fact that Varian had only received approval to manufacture the machines a year before they were supplied to the department.

Dr Mtshali, the man who replaced Zungu as department head in July 2015, signed a deal in 2015 with oncologist Dr Dr Nkanyiso Johnson Zwane to allow his company KZN Oncology Inc to get the machines working and then maintain them. The deal broke literally every rule governing the way government departments are meant to procure services.

Segalwe also confirmed on Thursday that this deal with KZN Oncology, the details of which were revealed last year April in an ANA investigation, was also under investigation by the Public Protector.

“The irregular extension of the contract is being investigated,” he said.

The Human Rights Commission is also investigating the Addington Hospital cancer machines saga following a complaint lodged last year by the Democratic Alliance.

Little is known about the contract with MediTech or what the complaint is. It is understood that the company supplies an Electronic Medical Records system, that was first installed at Durban’s Addington Hospital according to a press release on the department’s website.

– African News Agency

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