An example of a mobile ambulance procured by the Eastern Cape Ministry of Health for a launch event. (Photo: Supplied)
Neither the Ministry of Health nor Fabkomp, the company that won the controversial tender to manufacture 100 motorcycle clinics for the Eastern Cape Ministry of Health, have spoken out against an application before the special court to cancel the tender.
After months of controversy, allegations, claims for revenge over a Russian bride, and serious findings by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) against the former MEC for Health and the former Superintendent General, the Eastern Cape Ministry of Health has decided to allow the scooter project to go.
A case of fraud and corruption opened in Bhisho on September 8, 2020. The case was later turned over to the Eastern Cape Hawks, but no arrests were made.
“We have decided not to oppose the SIU, which has requested the cancellation of the tender,” said department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo.
Fabkomp owner Brian Harmse said he too had decided to abide by the special court’s decision but filed an affidavit to respond to allegations made against him by the SIU.
In June 2020, the Eastern Cape Ministry of Health, with funds earmarked for the fight against Covid-19, launched its medical scooter project in East London with great enthusiasm. The launch activities included meeting former Health Minister Sindiswa Gomba and Health Minister Dr. Bringing Zweli Mkhize to test rides on a motorcycle with a sidecar converted into an ambulance.
In a report attached to his papers before the Special Court, Harmse admitted that this was all a farce as the department hadn’t even ordered the motorcycle ambulances.
“We were asked on June 9, 2020 to prepare the motorcycle clinics for the next week. We didn’t have any bikes ready. We informed the department that we had four ambulances ready to go to Kenya and two demonstration units. We have been asked to have these units available. The test drives were in the ambulance, but the order was for the clinics, ”he said.
He said he had reported errors “in good faith and cooperation” to the special investigation unit in its report on the matter, but alleged the SIU had not responded.
“The SIU first established that there may have been collusion and corruption between Fabkomp and the Ministry of Health,” said Harmse in his affidavit.
He said that the SIU investigator on the matter, Glenn Muller, later admitted in a supplementary affidavit that he could not prove collusion.
“I can say that the Ministry of Health treated the company with preferential treatment,” said Müller in a subsequent affidavit.
Harmse claims that Müller maliciously acted as “repayment” because of an incident that Harmse had annoyed him about.
Harmse claimed he and other friends made fun of Müller, who allegedly had a bouquet of flowers in hand at the airport while waiting to meet a woman he met online.
Müller and the SIU have denied this.
One of Harmse’s business partners, Mike du Toit, stated in an affidavit before the Special Court that he had called Müller to discuss the claims made against Fabkomp. He said Muller told him not to worry as the investigation was focused on the Eastern Cape Ministry of Health.
Following negative results from the SIU, the former health MEC Sindiswa Gomba was sacked by Prime Minister Oscar Mabuyane. She was also charged on one case of misusing funds earmarked for Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
Dr. Thobile Mbengashe, who was the department head at the time, is faced with disciplinary complaints related to the procurement of the scooters.
Mkhize later said in response to a question in Parliament that the motorcycle ambulances were not approved for carrying patients in South Africa. The Eastern Cape Health Ministry then admitted that it had shown the minister the wrong vehicle.
Special Court spokeswoman Selby Mokgotho said Judge Lebogang Modiba was still writing her verdict, but all parties said they would withdraw their objection and abide by the court’s decision.
The chairman of the health committee in the legislature in the Eastern Cape, Mxolisi Dimaza, said as committee that he had also recommended that the tender be canceled.
He said the committee’s report highlighted how the department was violating the provincial government’s policy that vehicles must be procured by the transportation department.
He said there is “plenty of room” for a scooter program to dispense medication in areas where roads are very poor or difficult to get to.
“But they have to follow the right processes. It wasn’t urgent. There was no need to deviate from the procurement processes. You also need skilled drivers before you buy scooters, ”said Dimaza. DM / MC
Do you like what you read? Sign up for the Maverick Citizen newsletter and receive a weekly summary in your inbox every Tuesday. Free. Because paywalls shouldn’t stop you from being informed.