The Public Protector’s office has decried what it calls persistent shortages of Personal Protective Equipment and of health care workers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Addressing the media in Pretoria on Monday, the Office says it is also concerned about poor nutrition for patients and ageing infrastructure.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says these are some of the findings contained in her 2020 report following inspections of various health institutions mostly in the Gauteng, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.
Her deputy Kholeka Gcaleka sasys: “There was insufficient distribution and provisioning of PPE to ensure the staff and COVID-19 patients were adequately protected from the surge of the pandemic. It was a course of concern that the PPE were collected at the warehouse and procured by the department and not the hospitals themselves according to their personal needs. There were no dedicated drivers appointed to collect them at the warehouse and this contributed to the delay to the receiving of stock. Hospitals did not have sufficient PPE.”
Special relief grants
The Public Protector says it has also received about 1500 complaints regarding delayed or non-payment of the R350 special relief grants as well as numerous UIF benefits. Mkhwebane says they are working on resolving the complaints.
“The rest of the 1514 applications were rejected by SASSA and we are therefore still probing and sent feedback letters to complainants, we awaiting their response. Also had 38 matters regarding undue delay to UIF benefits in relation to COVID-19. All 38 of these have been resolved.”
Public Protector Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane releases latest reports into investigations by her office:
TIMELINE: COVID-19 food parcels, PPE corruption timeline
Following an outcry over the COVID-19 fraud and corruption allegations, the government has intensified its fight against those who it has described as stealing from the poor during the coronavirus pandemic.
On March 28, government introduced a nationwide lockdown in the country as measures to try and reduce the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
In April, the government distributed food parcels to the needy who were hard hit by the impact of the lockdown.
Later in that month, government introduced a R200bn loan guarantee scheme in a bid to assist enterprises with operational costs such as salaries, rent and the payment of suppliers.
The scheme was in partnership with major banks, the National Treasury and the South African Reserve Bank. However, shortly after the food distribution started, reports of food parcels corruption emerged.
The allegations of food corruption were met with criticism from all sectors of the society, with some calling for harsher punishment against those found guilty.
The food parcels distributions were aimed at mitigating the impact of the lockdown.
At that time, the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) said it was receiving about 900 calls per hour as the demand for food parcels was vast.
Several people belonging to political parties were accused of selling the food parcels or unfairly distributing them to their political party members.
In Tshwane, the South African National Civic Organisation opened a corruption case against some officials for allegedly distributing food parcels based on preference.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) tender corruption in South Africa
In July, allegations of PPE tender corruption emerged from several parts of the country.
In the Eastern Cape:
The Eastern Cape provincial government came under fire following several allegations of corruption.
The allegations ranged from the use of a guest house owned by a politician’s daughter as an isolation facility to payments by the OR Tambo district municipality, improper procurement of sanitisers and the scooter project. But these allegations were rejected by those who were fingered.
The scooters project is alleged to have cost the provincial health department R10-million. The scooters were aimed at transporting COVID-19 patients but Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said the scooters do not qualify to transport patients as they do not meet the requirements.
The President promised the nation that the law enforcement agencies will deal with crimes related to money set aside to fight the pandemic
In Gauteng, Presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko, her husband, Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku and his wife, Loyiso have all been fingered in a personal protective equipment (PPE) tender worth R125 million.
The tender was awarded to Royal Bhaca Projects – owned by Amabaca King Madzikazi II Thandisizwe, who is Khusela Diko’s husband.
Some media reports suggested that the company was established in January 2019 and had no track record of supplying PPE
Masuku, his wife and Diko have all since taken leave of absence pending the outcome of the investigation into the awarding of the tender.
In KwaZulu-Natal, Premier Sihle Zikalala said senior officials implicated in corruption will be held accountable to ensure clean governance.
The Department of Social Development allegedly misappropriated COVID-19 related funds.
The provincial government launched investigations into the awarding of two tenders to supply blankets for the homeless and personal protective equipment.
The investigations have since uncovered irregularities of nearly R30 million.
A total of 48 000 blankets were procured, but only 4 982 had been delivered at the time of the investigations.
In the Free State:
There have been media reports suggesting that those close to former Free State Premier and current African National Congress (ANC) Secretary-General, Ace Magashule, have benefitted from Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) tenders worth millions in the province.
At least seven companies with links to those close to Magashule have been awarded PPE tenders in the province.
But the provincial Treasury maintains the procurement processes were followed in line with the instruction notes of the National Treasury for emergency procurement of COVID-19 PPEs.
Provincial Chief Director for Assets and Liabilities, Tshepo Mabilo, says nothing prohibits family members of government employees from doing business with the State.
Meanwhile, the ANC’s alliance partner, the South African Communist Party (SACP), has called for an investigation
Provincial health spokesperson Neil Shikwambana has confirmed that COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) tenders worth over R900 million were not advertised by the department, but the names were supplied to the department of health by the provincial Treasury.
Shikwambana says the company names were hand-picked from the database of the provincial Treasury.
There are allegations that among the 216 companies awarded the tenders, some belong to government officials, the friends and relatives of senior politicians, while others did not qualify.
One of the companies is alleged to be based in KwaZulu-Natal and is said to have been given a R180 million tender.
Meanwhile, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), wants the provincial government officials and senior politicians, fingered in the allegations of irregular awarding of COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment tender to put on special leave.
The Limpopo Health Department says it will publish a list of companies that received Personal Protective Equipment contracts worth more than R400 million.
SUI to probe PPE tender corruption:
The Special Tribunal of South Africa has granted the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) an urgent order freezing R38.7 million held in the bank accounts of 40 Gauteng-based companies.
According to the tribunal, the companies are involved in the implementation of the contract for the supply and delivery of various COVID-19 PPEs.
Tribunal spokesperson Selby Makgotho says the Gauteng Health Department has also been interdicted from making any further payments to the 40 implicated companies.
Meanwhile, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu says corruption around the procurement of Personal Protection Equipment is tantamount to murder.
Mthembu says government is deeply concerned about escalating corruption, particularly regarding COVID-19 related tenders.
He adds that law-enforcement agencies such as the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) will make sure that those involved in corruption are brought to book.
Below is a timeline of COVID-19 related corruption: