Thuli orders health ministry to pay up

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iol news pic Thuli Madonsela Apr24 Independent Newspapers Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. File picture: Antoine de Ras

Johannesburg - Sipho Ndlovu lost everything. He was forced out of business, had to lay off his 10 workers, lost eight cars, his home, was blacklisted, had his credit and bank cards frozen - and was shot at three times because he owed people money.

Ndlovu has been embroiled in a four-year payment dispute with the Gauteng Department of Health. His company, CKB Washroom Sales and Services, supplied hygiene equipment to the department for its clinics in the province.

But there is a glimmer of hope that he may finally get paid all the monies owed to him after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela re-leased a report on Friday titled “Unsettled Settlements”, in which her team investigated the dispute.

CKB was contracted by several clinics to supply hygiene equipment such as air freshener dispensers, soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers, hand dryers and sanitary bins on a rental basis, and the related support services.

According to the report, when the department cancelled some of the service agreements, CKB instituted court action, which led to an out-of-court settlement.

The settlement extended the agreements to the end of July 2010 and the department extended them to September 30, 2010.

Ndlovu turned to the public protector in July 2011, complaining of the department’s non-payment of R2 960 112.60, allegedly owed for the services his company continued to provide the department’s clinics after September 30, 2010.

Following the investigation, the public protector made 15 damning findings in Ndlovu’s favour against the department, saying the conduct of the department regarding the “poor handling” of the procurement of hygiene equipment constituted “maladministration” and “improper conduct”.

Madonsela directed the department to: “Subject CKB’s invoices submitted in March 2012 totalling R2 960 112.60 to an audit process and to determine a reasonable amount payable for rental charged for the period starting on October 1, 2010 until when the equipment was removed.”

The department was also directed to pay Ndlovu within 60 days.

The department’s spokesman, Prince Hamnca, said on Wednesday they were committed to ensuring suppliers, including CKB, were paid timeously.

“Their matter is not being ignored, it is currently being handled by legal teams from both parties with the aim of finding a solution soon,” he added.

DA health spokesman Jack Bloom MPL said he hoped the department would tighten up its financial management after the report, and ensure that all businesses were paid within the legally required 30-day time frame.

“Late payments are still a big problem, and impacts on patient care as some unpaid companies refuse to provide services,” he added.

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