One of the most ill-fated decisions of the entire COVID-19 pandemic has come back to haunt the Eastern Cape Health Department. Former MEC Sindiswa Gomba signed off on the scooter ambulances, costing the local fiscus R10 million. Infamously, she went on to blame ‘apartheid’ for her bizarre decision – but the Acting Public Protector is having none of it.
Public Protector slams Eastern Cape scooter ambulances
Kholeka Gcaleka released the department’s report into the procurement process for these widely-panned vehicles, and found that the tender process was rotten to the core: A heap of irregularities were uncovered, making the scheme both baffling AND illegal. The public consultation programme was also only open for nine days, rather than the 21 required.
“The procurement process followed by the Eastern Cape Department of Health, when it decided to supply motorbikes with side car ambulances (or scooters), is deemed to be improper and in contravention of applicable legal prescripts. The investigation has revealed significant administrative or conduct failures during the procurement process”
“The appropriate steps in respect of disciplinary action in terms of section 38(h) of the PFMA against the officials that were involved in and responsible for the procurement of the scooters, will be finalised within 90 days from the date of this report. In fact, the conduct of the Health Department was improper and constitutes maladministration.”
Apartheid ‘not mentioned’ in PP’s investigation
Gomba, who has since been dismissed from her post, courted a wave of controversy last July. She blamed the procurement of the scooter ambulanced on the ills of apartheid, and the inequalities it has created…
However, this defence was savaged by the critics, who rightly pointed out that poorer provinces and districts had not resorted to such questionable measures. MEC Gomba’s hot take on the fiasco is truly something to behold.
“The pandemic came unexpectedly and presented itself in a new dynamic. It has also exposed the weaknesses of our health system, and that’s all down to the design of apartheid. [The scooter ambulance project] just shows the true extent of inequalities in our society”.