Calls for answers on bus tender

By Drum Digital
29 January 2015

Calls were made on Thursday for the KwaZulu-Natal health department and the province's health MEC to answer questions over a R61 million mobile hospital tender.

At the same time, Mzansi Lifecare (Pty) Ltd, the company that secured the lion's share of the tender, said it had complied with all the tender requirements and apologised for threats made to the Sapa journalist investigating the tender.

The calls and reaction followed an investigation by Sapa published on Tuesday which revealed that the department would spend about R61m on two vehicles, one of which was a mobile hospital vehicle leased from Mzansi Lifecare (Pty) Ltd for R52.5m over three years.

The Democratic Alliance's KwaZulu-Natal health spokesman Dr Imran Keeka said he had asked questions about the "mobile hospitals" last year, but health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo had not answered them.

"Late last year I submitted a set of parliamentary questions to KZN Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo in an attempt to allay my suspicions that tender processes may not have been conducted according to procedure."

He said all his other questions had been answered, but those surrounding tender ZNB 9281/2012-H had not been answered.

"Our questions regarding mobile hospitals remain unanswered and conveniently ignored. His evasive manner is a recurring problem which raises very serious questions of integrity," he said.

The Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa called for Dhlomo and department head Dr Sibongile Zungu to be sacked.

Spokeswoman Michelle Connolly said: "We demand an immediate explanation from the department as to how this bus project ended up costing them R61 million over three years, and the state still ends up not actually owning a single bus. And since when does a newly registered company, with no verifiable experience, land such a big tender?"

She said the union had long been of the opinion that both Dhlomo and Zungu should be axed "as they have presided over a department that is perpetually in a state of mismanagement and corruption -- and this is to the detriment of both workers and patients."

She referred to a recent announcement that Zungu was being investigated by an inquiry for alleged mismanagement and corruption -- allegations levelled at Zungu by the rival National Education Health and Allied Workers Union, who have also in the past called for Zungu to be sacked.

She said Zungu should also be sacked for failing to maintain two cancer radiotherapy machines installed in Durban's Addington Hospital at a cost of R120 million.

In a brief statement on Thursday Dr Nandi Sakhile Msimang, the chief executive of Mzansi Lifecare (Pty) Ltd, said the company had complied with all the requirements of the tender.

She said: "Mzansi Lifecare (Pty) Ltd registered an application to supply mobile medical units, and after complying with legal tender requirements was transparently awarded the tender contract in 2013 to supply one mobile truck with specific healthcare equipment in terms of a KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health tender."

She said that the company had delivered [the vehicle] "in accordance with all the tender requirements".

Msimang also apologised for a threatening phone call that Sapa journalist Giordano Stolley received within four hours of sending questions to the company querying the tender.

A man who identified himself as Patrick King told Stolley last Friday that: "I'm saying to you that if I found out that you write the wrong things about us, then I will deal with you personally."

Msimang said on Thursday, she "unconditionally apologises for Mr Patrick King's outburst" and that it was an "emotional reaction" that she had not authorised.

The US company LifeLine Mobile, based in the state of Ohio, told the Sapa investigation after analysing pictures and detailed plans that it could ship four 12m-long vehicles with a comparable floor plans with X-ray and ultrasound machines for about US1.1m (R12.5m at current exchange rate) each.

"For the price they [the health department] 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," said Richard M Dinse, the vice president of LifeLine Mobile.

The second vehicle supplied as part of the tender was sold to the department for R4.9m and the department pays about R100,000 a month to MST for the vehicle's operational costs over three years ending August 2016.

-SAPA

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