A Corruption Watch probe into the awarding of a multi-million circumcision contract has yielded positive results. The R182-million contract, between the Mpumalanga Department of Health and a private service provider, Mkhago Health Care Services, has been suspended as a result of the probe.
The organisation received an anonymous tip-off two months ago and acted swiftly to investigate the allegations, which included various irregularities involving the awarding of the lucrative tender by the provincial health department to Mpumalanga-based Mkhago.
Corruption Watch found that in June 2013, the department awarded Mkhago a one-year contract to circumcise 260 000 boys and men in the province, at a cost of R700 per circumcision. The total would be worth a whopping R182-million if all 260 000 circumcisions were performed – this would be under the department's voluntary medical male circumcision programme.
By law all contracts over R500 000 are to be awarded through a public competitive bidding process. In the case of Mkhago, Corruption Watch found that the company presented a business proposal and won the contract without having to go through the required tender process.
Now, based on Corruption Watch’s findings, the health department is setting out to conduct its own forensic investigation into the matter and in the meantime has suspended the contract – this was confirmed this week by its acting head, Dr JV Dlamini. Click here to read the department’s letter to Corruption Watch.
Corruption Watch's executive director David Lewis said the suspension was a victory for the courageous whistleblower who brought the case to the organisation: “We are hopeful that the department’s investigation will single out all those involved in flouting supply chain processes. We welcome the department’s decision to suspend the contract while they carry out their investigation, which we will be following closely.”
Lewis said that a proper supply chain process was necessary not only because it fostered competition between bidders and enabled the principal to secure the best price, but it also ensured that service providers are properly vetted.
Government takes quick action
In the letter Dlamini said that the contract with Mkhago was suspended on 27 September 2013, and would be investigated. This too is quick action – the department’s bold step comes within a month of being alerted to the suspect contract.
The report also implicated Mkhago’s director, Dr. Ebby Mkhabela, and his wife, anaesthetist Ramatsemela Mumsy Mkhabela, in a possible conflict of interest. Mkhabela’s wife was a Mkhago director until December last year and took up a position at Themba Hospital in Mpumalanga four months before the contract was awarded.
Corruption Watch’s investigation found no evidence indicating that she was involved in the awarding of the contract.