Parly wants Mkhize, MECs to account for 'careless manner in which PPE stock, contracts were handled'

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Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. (Photo: Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images)
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. (Photo: Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images)
  • Officials from the Auditor-General presented their findings of an audit of the health department's Covid-19 expenditure.
  • Officials found personal protective equipment (PPE) were procured at prices higher than approved market-related rates.
  • Some suppliers received payment for delivering substandard products.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) were procured at prices higher than approved market-related rates, while some suppliers were paid for delivering substandard products.

In some provinces, the goods were stored in walkways and outside storage facilities.

These were some of the irregularities the Auditor-General uncovered during its investigation into the national health department's Covid-19 expenditure.

These revelations prompted Parliament's health portfolio committee to call on Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and all the Health MECs to appear before it "in the coming days". 

READ | PPE procurement scandal: Bandile Masuku will not appeal High Court judgment dismissing SIU review

On Thursday, officials briefed the committee on the irregularities regarding procurement for goods and services in the fight against Covid-19.

Thabelo Musisinyani, senior manager at the AG's office, said poor contract management led to financial losses in the department.

"Significant deficiencies in the order, delivery, receipt and payment processes further exposed the health and education sectors to financial loss and resulted in health workers not always receiving the PPE they required. PPE procured at prices that were higher than market-related rates as determined by National Treasury. [The department] potentially suffered financial losses as a result.

"Some suppliers delivered PPE that did not meet the required specifications or were not what they had been contracted to deliver, or they under-delivered or delivered late. Despite this, the suppliers were still paid by most of the departments," she said.

She also said businesses competing for PPE contracts across the country were not treated fairly and equally.

Musisinyani added:

Some were disqualified based on not complying with the requirements, while others were not. Contracts were also awarded to businesses that do not have a history of providing PPE - often working in a different industry or being formed or registered just before a contract was awarded.

Jacques Boshoff, performance audit manager at the AG's office, said there were poor storage practices at bulk storage and healthcare facilities.

He also said there were limited security controls at bulk storage facilities.

"PPE [were] stored in the walkways, outside the boxes and on top of each other in a disorderly manner. PPE stock was stored at a temporary bulk storage facility and some healthcare facilities where the infrastructure was not well maintained and therefore in poor condition. Instances were identified where the ceilings were not in good condition due to water damage. Some of the PPE was damaged by water.

"Some PPE stock was stored outside temporary bulk storage facilities. Sanitisers stored outside the facility was exposed to the sun and rain. Some of these items were damaged due to exposure to direct sunlight. The quality was therefore compromised," he said.

READ ALSO | Covid-19 tenders went to businesses formed just before contracts were awarded - AG Tsakani Maluleke

The committee was unanimous in calling for Mkhize and the nine provincial Health MECs to provide reasons for the careless manner in which PPE stock and contracts were handled.

Committee chairperson Sibongiseni Dhlomo said he would make arrangements to ensure Mkhize and the MECs appeared before the committee in the coming days.

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