KZN health officials fabricated documents to award contract, Zondo commission hears
Johannesburg - The Zondo commission has heard how tender processes were circumvented by officials at the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health to ensure that a Western Cape water purification supply company was awarded millions of rand worth of tenders.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) forensic investigator Trevor White appeared at the inquiry for a third day on Wednesday and shifted his focus on PWC’s investigation into tender irregularities at the KZN Department of Health.
White first tackled the questionable awarding of a water purification tender to Intaka group in 2006. He said during that year there were questions about the quality of water being supplied at two hospitals, Rietvlei Hospital and Appelsbosch Hospital).
He said an article in the Sowetan newspaper in September 2006 had sparked concerns and led to the Department of Health testing the water at both hospitals.
He said the results of the KZN Department of health report confirmed that there was nothing wrong with water and the issue was that they were discoloured but were safe to consume. He said the head of the department was sent the report.
White said even with a report proving that the water safe to consume, department of health officials went ahead and issued a notice for water purification equipment to be procured. White said officials manufactured documents which would support the appointment of Intaka which fell outside of normal tender processes. He said Intaka would be appointed to supply the water purification equipment at R9 million. White said there was never a need for this equipment which were also paid for at an inflated price.
“This was used by the officials in the department to find a reason to appoint Intaka without following proper tender processes. Department internal memo was sent out seven days after Sowetan article was published. The department did take the matter seriously and appropriate people did go and assess and concluded that there was nothing wrong with the water. The fact that there was a test which said that there was nothing wrong with the water was ignored,” White said.
White said a director at Intaka Dr Savoi worked with Dr Busi Nyembezi, who was the head of the department of health, in providing invoices from Intaka.
“Quotes were prepared by Intaka Dr Savoi and Dr Nyembezi worked together to inflate the price. It was supposed to go to tender as it’s a R10 million project. Dr Nyembezi created the need and with Savoi they were provided with prices and quotes. When one looks at the detail it was a fabrication of documents to circumvent the supply chain process. It was an R4 million profit for the equipment supplied. The original cost is around R2 million and they were charging around R4 million for each equipment,” he said.
White said once the equipment was purchased it took months for the installation to take place and meanwhile there was no alarm about the quality of the water in the area. He said this further proved that there was never a need for the water purification equipment.
“It took five months to install these pumps. There was no negative publicity of the "unsafe" water. This is the same water used to supply the town. It would be a whole town issue if the water was not safe and not just a problem for the hospital.”
White’s evidence continues.IOL