DURBAN – A report on how the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health spent R120 million on two radiotherapy machines for Durban’s Addington Hospital, and awarded a dodgy contract to maintain them, has been handed to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
The case is the first breakthrough after a four-year investigation and is expected to implicate senior health officials and political figures.
It also comes amid a crisis that has left the province without any oncologists in the public sector and calls for the removal of the embattled health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo.
Treasury spokesperson Ntsakisi Maswanganyi confirmed to the Sunday Tribune that the matter had been concluded, but would not say more other than the matter had been referred for criminal investigation to the provincial NPA.
However, a source with knowledge of the matter said the investigation painted a damning picture of corruption.
“Heads will roll when the truth eventually comes out. This entire contract will finally expose what went on with those machines,” the source said.
This comes in the wake of threats from the Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) to take the provincial department of health to the Human Rights Commission over alleged violations of patient rights.
At the centre of the controversy are questions over the purchase of the oncology machines in 2009 and the awarding of a repair and maintenance contract for a further R5.4 million, at R435 000 a month for five years, without following tender processes.
The machines were bought during the tenure of former provincial health head, Peggy Nkonyeni, who was implicated in the infamous “Amigos” trial, involving a water purification tender scandal.
But the contract for their maintenance was given to a company under Dhlomo’s watch. The company, KZN Oncology, was reportedly not an approved supplier to government at the time it received the contract and did not have a written contract or order to undertake the work. The company was reportedly also not an authorised agent to carry out work on the machines.
Hospersa spokesperson Noel Desfontaines has called for action against Dhlomo.
“We have asked the Minister of Health to set up a task team urgently to investigate the health crisis in the province. Something is not right.
“The excuse about a lack of finance can no longer be given when you look at how much money was spent on the machines. The investigation has been going on for four years now and, during this time, the machines have lain idle, unused at Addington, while cancer patients are suffering.
“The health department in KZN has failed to respond to our queries and we will now take it to the (Human) Rights Commission,” he said.
“We’ve been told the contract for those machines involved corruption and bribery of senior officials, including some high-ranking politicians. If the MEC has nothing to hide, why has he not given us any answers? He needs to come clean. The province is already buckling under his poor leadership,” said Desfontaines.
Approached for comment, the provincial health head, Dr Sifiso Mtshali, denied the department was withholding the report.
“The investigations are part of a broad investigation into several institutions by the Treasury and have nothing to do with us.
“Hospersa has been asking us about something we are not involved in, which is why we were not able to respond to them.
“But it's important to note that even if we were to repair the machines that are sitting at Addington, it would not help because our challenge is not machinery; it is a lack of expertise in oncology.”
To address this, Mtshali said the department was finalising an agreement with private health facilities to provide services for cancer patients.