The KwaZulu-Natal legislature’s health portfolio committee says it has made “astonishing discoveries” of irregular expenditure related to mobile clinics, including a three-year R52.5 million lease.
However, some of the “astonishing discoveries” detailed in a statement released by committee chairman Yusuf Bhamjee had been widely reported on by the media three years ago and are the subject of an investigation by the public protector.
“In a meeting held [on Friday] the portfolio committee on health uncovered shocking wastage of taxpayers’ money by the department of health in KZN. These revelations came about when the portfolio committee held its normal oversight meeting as mandated by the Constitution, namely, to oversee government departments, and in this case the department of health,” Bhamjee said in the statement.
The statement goes on to detail how the department spent R50 million on buying about 95 23-seater vehicles.
“The department further leased one more bus for about R1m per month for 36 months at a cost of about R52m. The contract ended in 2016. However, the department extended it from April to July 2016,” the statement said.
It is the discovery of the leased bus that is surprising, as the now defunct South African 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 awarded a tender to lease a truck and trailer equipped with a standard X-ray machine and ultrasound to the department for R52.5 million over a period of three years. The company, Mzansi Lifecare, was created 17 days before the tender, ZNB 9281 / 2012-H, was advertised in the Government Gazette in June 2012.
Former KwaZulu-Natal health department head Sibongile Zungu signed off on the lease in August 2013, agreeing that the department would pay Mzansi Lifecare R1.5 million every month 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.
“That kind of money is crazy. If it cost that much you already wasted four and a half million [US dollars],” Richard M Dinse, vice-president of LifeLine Mobile, a company based in the US state of Ohio that manufactures such vehicles, said at the time.
“For the price they were charged, LifeLine could have delivered four identical vans to Durban. And it wouldn’t be on a lease agreement; they would own all four of the vans,” he said.