Intaka deal ‘flouted policy’

2013-06-12 00:00

A LABOUR dispute between a suspended legal adviser and the KZN Department of Health (DoH) may shed new light on the Amigos case and possibly other incidents of corruption.

Kantha Padayachee, who worked at Natalia in Pietermaritzburg, stated that she has intimate knowledge of the Amigos case, having handed the state swathes of information that formed the basis of their case. She has taken her employer to the Durban Labour Court to be reinstated to her job.

She was suspended in February 2010, mere days after meeting with a police investigator and handing him information that saw Cape Town businessman and Intaka Limited owner Gaston Savoi, KZN Legislature speaker Peggy Nkonyeni and MEC for Economic Development Mike Mabuyakhulu arrested for fraud, racketeering and corruption, along with several other highly ranked departmental officials and politicians. The charge emanated from the DoH’s purchase of water purification equipment and oxygen generators costing the department in excess of R100 million, which was eventually finalised in late 2009. Nkonyeni was the Health MEC at the time.

In November 2012, the charges against six of those charged, including Nkonyeni and Mabuyakhulu, were formally withdrawn in the Durban high court.

Padayachee was dismissed on a charge of racism, an allegedly trumped up charge she says was an effort to remove her from the department due to her intimate knowledge of the contract allowing the Intaka deal to go through.

Padayachee said she became suspicious of the Intaka contract in mid-2009, when the department purchased two water purification units for two smaller hospitals, Appelsbosch and Rietvlei, valued at nearly R10 million. Each unit cost just under R5 million.

“I expressed concern at the procurement of the water purification plants at R9,9 million. There had been a break from supply chain management policy, with only three quotes having been received. According to government’s supply chain policy, any purchase by a state entity over R200 000 must go to an open tender,” said Padayachee.

She said despite bringing the deviations and inflated costs to the attention of her superiors, she was told to be less bureaucratic and that the procurement of the water purifiers was an emergency purchase.

Furthermore, she said, despite the same equipment being available elsewhere at about R800 000 a unit, and the DoH having already procured similar equipment at a hugely reduced price, the department continued to court Intaka.

Padayachee made further claims that decisions made in the bid evaluation committee, which looked at the Intaka deal, were changed by the bid award committee — a highly irregular process.

Being led by her counsel, Rajesh Choudree SC, Padayachee outlined possible irregular deviations from policy in several other contracts, such as one awarded to Ernst and Young for forensic services.

The labour court proceedings will continue today.

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