Officials implicated in the Eastern Cape Health Department’s embarrassing R10 million “ambulance scooter” tender must face disciplinary action within three months, acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka has ordered.
Gcaleka on Wednesday gave newly-appointed Eastern Cape Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth 90 days to ensure that action is taken against officials involved in the “ambulance scooter” scandal.
She released 21 reports including ten closing reports and ordered Meth, who took over reins in the department in March, to oversee disciplinary action against the implicated officials in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and the department’s applicable policies.
According to Gcaleka, the department must take action against any officials involved in making the decision regardless of position across all the ranks of seniority.
She also ordered that the implicated officials should be held responsible for the non-compliance with the provisions of the government’s supply chain management policy and Treasury Regulations during the procurement of the scooter/ambulance or clinics within 90 days from the date of releasing her report.
The department bought the ambulance scooters from Qonce, Eastern Cape-based manufacturing company Fabkomp last year for over R10m.
In September, the Special Tribunal interdicted and restrained Meth’s predecessor, Sindiswa Gomba, the department’s former superintendent-general Dr Thobile Mbengashe and chief financial officer Msulwa Daca from making payments to Fabkomp until the finalisation of the review application and not to implement the tender.
Gcaleka said the Public Protector’s investigation was its own initiative and started in July last year.
”We found that the procurement process followed by the Eastern Cape Department of Health when it awarded Fabkomp contract number SCMU3-20/21-0022-HO to supply motorbikes with sidecar ambulance or clinic was improper and in contravention of applicable legal prescripts,” she announced.
The department contravened or did not observe relevant provisions of the Constitution, the PFMA, Treasury Regulations, National Treasury instructions and its supply chain management policy in the process of procuring the ambulance scooters, according to the report.
Gcaleka also ordered the department’s acting superintendent-general Dr Sibongile Zungu to remedy the maladministration and improper conduct that occurred in the tender by taking the appropriate steps in respect of disciplinary action against officials involved within three months from the date of the report.
Zungu must also ensure that all the officials involved in supply chain management processes and senior managers in the department attend a workshop on the relevant legislation and other legal and policy prescripts and instructions of the National and Provincial Treasuries regulating the procurement of goods and services within 60 days.
In its explanation of the decision to buy the ambulance scooters, the department cited the need to strengthen community health-based services and the programme would involve promotive, prevention, early detection and rehabilitative services coupled with an appropriate referral for continuity of care.
The department claimed the motorbikes would be used to bring health services closer to communities, homes and workplaces and reduce the burden of diseases and financial risk protection especially in hard to reach parts of the province and places where ambulances cannot reach.
In his response to the public protector last month, Mbengashe defended the bid as competitive despite the advertisement period being shortened to only five working days and that the motorcycles/scooters were considered to be personal protective equipment and/or a Covid-19-related commodity.
He said the ambulance scooters were identified to be a necessary resource to support the department’s Covid-19 response by tracking and tracing of contacts in hard to reach areas.