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Circumcision contract to be probed

Johannesburg - The Mpumalanga health department is investigating a multi-million-rand contract awarded to a company as part of the province's Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) programme.

This follows an investigation by Corruption Watch that found Mkhago Health Care Services was given a one-year contract to conduct 260,000 circumcisions at a cost of R700 per person, or R182 million, a Sapa correspondent reported. The contract was not put out to tender.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has received widespread support for rejecting as genocide a US lobby group plan for pharmaceutical companies to lobby against SA's draft intellectual policy framework. File photo: Sharon Seretlo. Credit: Independent Newspapers

“We have joined forces with the integrity management unit in the office of the premier to strengthen and fast-track the investigation,” provincial health spokesman Ronnie Masilela said.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi instructed the provincial health department to report to him how the contract was awarded.

Masilela said the department had promised to conclude its investigation into the matter by November 30, 2013.

“The matter has since proven to be a little complex and required an extension of time to continue with other parts of the investigation.

“It is against this background that we request to comment no further on this very matter until the investigations are concluded, which we believe will be soon,” he said.

He added that the contract remained suspended. He stressed that the investigation did not affect the province's VMMC programme.

The department had five other service providers conducting circumcisions, all of them NGOs that had been sponsored to carry out the circumcisions.

Mkhago Health Care Services is a private company belonging to Dr Ebby Mkhabela.

The department previously defended the Mkhago circumcision contract, saying it was based on Mkhabela's experience and qualifications.

However, the department is facing a R10.7m lawsuit relating to a circumcision that went wrong at Barberton Hospital in 2008. Mkhabela was the lead doctor during the circumcision procedure on a young boy, who is now nine.

The boy lost the tip of his penis in the operation. The matter is still in court. -Sapa

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