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Health’s R98m ghost

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Ghosts in the form of apparent irregular expenditure of close to R100 million are seemingly still haunting the Department of Health following the reported supply of goods and services, varying from coal to perishables, as far back as five financial years ago.
Correspondence underscoring an earlier application to the Department of National Treasury for condonation of more than R98 million in irregular expenditure relating to the delivery of respective goods and services in 2012/13 and 2014/15 was leaked to Polokwane Observer.
In doing so a source pointed out that to a certain extent the Department of National Treasury has been forcing the Department of Health to open a criminal case for the Police to investigate whether role players had received any gratification in terms of section 10 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004, before reconsidering the initial application. In the letter National Treasury further specified that any fruitless and wasteful expenditure that might have arisen should be recovered from the relevant official.
The document forwarded to Polokwane Observer listed the goods and services as coal totalling R18 804 953,22, cleaning materials of R4 413 880,76, laundry services to the amount of R24 534 918,61 and perishables or groceries valued at R50 461 206,47.
The letter from National Treasury Chief Director Supply Chain Management Governance, Monitoring and Compliance Solly Tshitangano is dated 1 March this year and was addressed to Provincial Treasury Department Head Gavin Pratt. It seemingly serves as a follow-up to a letter dated 10 July last year and received two weeks later. It summarises the background to the application for condonation of the irregular expenditure and contains reference to the expenditure having been incurred by the department as a result of contravening a Treasury practice note and regulation by not inviting competitive bids for goods and services above R500 000.
“The irregular expenditure application in the amount of R98 214 959,06 will be reconsidered after Limpopo Department of Health has opened a criminal case with SAPS to investigate whether role players did not receive any gratification in terms of section 10 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004.
“Any fruitless and wasteful expenditure that may arise from this contract must be recovered from the relevant official.
“The Accounting Authority has an obligation to prevent irregular expenditures.”
When approached for comment, Provincial Treasury spokesperson Sydwell Sibanda referred Polokwane Observer to the Department of Health’s Neil Shikwambana.
Asked why a criminal case had not initially been made with the Hawks once the then MEC had been alerted about the perceived irregular expenditure, Shikwambana responded saying the matter was still between the Provincial Treasury and the National Treasury and that engagements were still underway at that level. “Once that process is concluded the Provincial Treasury will bring the matter to us. If there are recommendations which will require us to implement we will duly comply.”
To a related question whether a criminal case has been opened as yet, he commented as follows: “As I have alluded to above, there are processes that are underway which must inform the cause (course) of action to be taken and once that is done we shall act accordingly.”
To the last question about the possible relation between the provision of laundry services and a controversial tender for alleged questionable delivery of such services to the department in the past, he concluded saying the issue had nothing to do with individual companies or contracts, but on how supply chain management prescripts were applied in awarding bids.

Story: YOLANDE NEL
>>observer.yolande@gmail.com