File picture: Ph B via Unsplash.
File picture: Ph B via Unsplash.

Call for probe after Western Cape spent R47m on a luxury hotel as a quarantine site

By Tshego Lepule Time of article published Sep 6, 2020

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Cape Town - Calls have been made to probe the Western Cape government’s spending on quarantine sites after R47 million was spent on a luxury hotel.

The provincial department of public works spent R69m for quarantine facilities.

This comes after the Western Cape government released its second procurement report and the Auditor-General, Kimi Makwetu, publicised its special Covid-19 expenditure reports this week that raised questions on government expenditure.

One of the aspects in Makwetu’s report is how provinces handled procuring private facilities to house people who required quarantine and isolation sites.

The provincial government’s latest report details how the departments of transport and public works, from April 1 to July 31 spent just over R60m on 26 different hotels, guesthouses and lodges across the province. However, the luxurious Lagoon Beach Hotel got the lion’s share of the R47m to accommodate more 2200 people at R1250 per person, per night. The cheapest facility charged R200 per person.

The remaining 25 facilities were paid just over R13m.

Spokesperson for the department Jandre Bakker said the provincial department budgeted R356m for quarantine and isolation sites as well as field hospitals but only spent R137.57m by August 31.

Bakker said one of the considerations for quarantine sites was to use its spending to invest in the local economy, particularly the hospitality industry which was in hard lockdown at the time.

When asked what the justification was for spending R47m on one facility and whether a discount rate was negotiated, Bakker said: “Lagoon Beach delivered a service based on a cost-recovery basis and not on a forprofit basis.

“It is a turnkey solution, immediately available and needed no adjustment to the infrastructure (minimising or eliminating sunken costs) and was also compliant with the guidelines for quarantine and isolations as published by the World Health Organisation and national Department of Health.”

Political parties in the province have also raised questions on the selection process and use of government money on private facilities.

Good Party’s Brett Heron said the province’s procurement report showed that the department had no pricing strategy for accommodation services.

“Who was offered these facilities for quarantine?

“When I engaged with communities and community health care workers on the Cape Flats they complained that Covid-19 positive people were not offered alternative accommodation and were expected to quarantine in their own homes which were overwhelmingly inappropriate or unsuitable for isolating given the overcrowded conditions.”

The ANC’s provincial spokesperson for transport and public works Lulama Mvimbi said: “This report shows patterns that clearly reveal the DA’s discriminatory expenditure where they spent huge amounts of money on affluent areas.

“Once we formally receive this report we need to go deeper into it. There is still much to be revealed.”

In his report Makwetu highlighted how the large expenditure on privately owned facilities would not benefit the department in the longer run.

Sunday Independent

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