STATEMENT BY DR BANDILE MASUKU REGARDING COVID-19 PPE PROCUREMENT 9 October 2020
1. I have been a member and activist of the African National Congress (ANC) for 31 years. Throughout this period, I have always put my political and professional skills at the disposal of the People and the ANC. I have sought to contribute to the vision of a better life for by making a small contribution in the health and wellbeing of our People.
2. For almost three months, I have — as I have always done in the past 31 years — abided by the discipline of the ANC which advised me to keep quiet and avoid the media in the interest of a fair investigative process in the Party and the State.
3. At this conjuncture I consider it fair that I finally speak for myself. I do so because I understand that in politics, perceptions do matter. If the perceptions are good, the image of the organisation improves, if they are bad, the image suffers. The same applies to personal reputations.
4. I also do so because; if I leave some of the perceptions unchallenged, the people of Gauteng and South Africa, my comrades, family and friends, may think that all that has been reported in the media in the past three months is factual and true, whereas the opposite is the case.
5. I wish to state it upfront that — just as I have done to all the accountability platforms I have been to — I did not act in a dishonest, illegal or corrupt manner to benefit myself, family and friends at the expense of people who face major suffering against Covid-19. Below I set out the facts as they are; and not as others in the media and other quarters wish them to be.
I STAND FOR INTEGRITY, ETHICS AND SERVICE
6. As a qualified specialist medical doctor, I reaffirm the Hippocratic Oath which spells out the obligations I have in relation to saving lives and healing people, something which the ANC Membership Oath defines as 'place my energies and skills at the disposal of the Organisation'. This oath says among things that, I must "practice my profession with conscience and dignity.".
7. As a Member of the Executive Council (MEC), the Oath of Office requires that be:
"...faithful to the Republic of South Africa...hold my office...with honour and dignity: to respect and uphold the Constitution and all other Law of the Republic of South Africa...and to perform the duties of my office conscientiously and to the best of my ability".
8. The Oath of Office in particular, must be read in conjunction with the Executive Code of Ethics and other relevant policies and documents. As far as I can remember and as I will show below, I have tried to live up to all these important injunctions, to the best of my knowledge and abilities.
THE ROLE OF THE EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY
9. When we got appointed to the role of Executive Authority in Gauteng Health, we went on record (Budget Speeches and other speeches bear testimony), to say that we are committed to building a Department which is 'patient-centred, clinician-led and stakeholder driven with community responsibility'. And later in our Five-Year Strategic Plan, we adopted the fifth pillar: Improving Governance and Leadership to which we undertook several initiatives to strengthen.
10. The attitude and commitment to building a 'clinician-led' Department is effectively an expression that we will not as politicians, interfere with clinical decisions. Clinical decisions must be left to clinicians. Similarly, this kind of attitude is consistent with our non-interference in Supply Chain Management (SCM) and all other areas of operation and administration in which we are not empowered by the law to exercise authority.
11. Accordingly, the Executive Authority's (EA) responsibilities and powers are regulated by law. Chapter 7 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), Act 1 of 1999 as amended, sets out the responsibilities of EA as follows (Schedule 2 of our Constitution):
a. Executive authorities of departments must perform their statutory functions within the limits of the funds authorised for the relevant vote.
b. In performing their statutory functions executive authorities must consider the monthly reports submitted to them in terms of section 39 (2) (b) and 40 (4) (c).
c. Any directive by an executive authority of a department to the accounting officer of the department having financial implications for the department must be in writing.
12.1n addition, the internal SCM Policy which is consistent with the provisions of the PFMA, provides clear delegations between the EA and the administration. It specifically limits my responsibilities to the approval of strategic plans, annual budgets, adjustment of budgets, requests for rollovers and virements only.
13. Given the foregoing, as EA, it would have been improper for me to give any instruction or directive to the Accounting Officer in relation to the procurement of PPE. Certainly, it would be a violation of my oath of office and public trust.
14.As part of my oversight responsibilities in line with delegations of authority, I receive monthly and quarterly reports from all directorates including Finance. When it comes to Supply Chain Management (SCM), my role as EA is to monitor the performance of the Department and ensure that the quarterly targets agreed in the Annual Performance Plan are met.
15. For a detailed account of my various interventions and oversight work on PPE, please consult my submissions to the Provincial Integrity Committee and GPL Integrity Commissioner, submissions which I shared with the SIU because, they are consistent, factual and most of the things contained therein are in the public domain already. (The documents are available on request).
ACHIEVEMENTS IN PURSUIT OF THE HEALTH PROGRAMME OF THE ANC
1. In May 2019, I was sworn in as a Member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (MPL) and later appointed as the Member of the Executive Council of the GDoH. We found a Department languishing in shame and distress after the unforgettable incidents of Life Esidimeni and Bank of Lisbon. A Department with an extremely bad reputation, low staff morale and bad perceptions lingering even among internal staff.
2. In less than a year, we did the following ongoing major Legacy Projects:
a. We put Gauteng Health on a firmer path to be ready for the rollout of the NHI. The litmus test for NHI is in Gauteng. We have no choice but to succeed. Most of our primary healthcare facilities are doing well in this regard (Ideal Clinics).
b. We introduced the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) programme and uplifted staff morale: something which impacts on patients' experience of care.
c. We introduced mediation as a preferred method to resolve medico-legal claims and it is taking root, with a massive court judgement that sets precedence on cerebral palsy cases. Through this approach, we saved millions of rands. The idea is to make mediation mandatory.
d. In line with State of Province Address commitments, we have begun the work on the 10 Priority Hospitals and went further to work on a model to accelerate maintenance in all our facilities.
e. As part of the National Health Digital Strategy, we have introduced several innovative digital ways of doing business: Mpilo App, eApplications, e-Submissions, the new HIS system, taking advantage of Covid-19 new normal, etc. Our strategic focus in this regard is on putting patient files on a digital platform.
f. In line with our 6'h strategic priority to pursue Growth and Create Jobs, we directed the Department to take up initiatives that will see us not only empower black and small business through public procurement but realising real socio-economic transformation through transforming health sector value-chains (TMR).
g. Sectoral work — We have also built strong strategic and smart partnerships with the private sector, professionals and organised labour to promote the health compact to improve Health Outcomes. Most of these partners delivered massive donations in the fight against Covid19.
h. Appointment of new CEOs - We appointed eleven (11) new hospital CEOs in late 2019 to stabilise management and administration in the system. Refreshing the system, creating predictability and stability in governance is very important for staff morale and labour relations. Most of these CEOs are younger and bring with them a lot of energy and dynamism.
Accelerated OHS Project - We directed that all OHS issues be expedited and consolidated in a manner that achieves results sooner than was initially planned. The project targets some of the worst working conditions/facilities and will see quicker turnaround times with massive positive spin-offs for staff morale and productivity. This is a key priority for the Premier too. Under this directive, OHS and Infrastructure Improvement Plans have been consolidated into one workstream and are being monitored at the highest level by the Premier, Treasury, DID, as well as the MEC for Health.
j. Critical posts — We filled up more than 1 974 critical posts in the previous financial year through an allocation of R778 million. This presents opportunities for employment, progression and improving staff morale and patients' experience of care.
k. Community Healthcare Workers — We absorbed more than 8 000 Community Healthcare Workers (CHWs) into persal which significantly improved job security for our lowest ranking employees and provided them with career progression prospects in the system.
I. Labour Relations Appeals Backlog — We managed to conclude a massive backlog of Labour Relations Appeal cases, with one extreme case dating back to 2004. This achievement has meant that workers who faced uncertainty for years, finally got certainty about their futures.
m. Absorption of Contract Workers — By the end of November 2019, we managed to absorb 82 of the contract workers who were in limbo for years. Most of these workers are young and female. Again, this brings about job security and labour peace.
n. Other issues which received serious attention from as were issues of Occupation Specific Dispensation, nurses' uniform allowances and the resettlement of staff in the new Central Office after the Bank of Lisbon fire disaster.
16. All the above achievements and more, are fully aligned with our six strategic priorities for the next five years (2019-2024). We have no doubt that if this kind of momentum continues after us, the Gauteng Department of Health will fully recover and be one of the best performing departments in the province and nationally. All that is needed is to execute the plan and keep the 'CAN DO' attitude.
IN THE EYE OF THE STORM — FACING COVID-19 IN THE EPICENTRE
17. Perhaps more than anything, despite the headlines, our greatest achievement so far, is the successful defeat we have mounted against Covid-19 in the First Wave. Faced with uncertainty, anxiety and no base of knowledge, owing to the novelty of the virus, we weathered the storm with the limited resources we had, thanks to the fortitude of the frontline staff and the responsible behaviour of the public.
18. In the face of doom and gloom narratives, we went through the flu season and Covid-19 peaks without the Gauteng Health system collapsing. I saw the eyes of the management, staff and specialists at the Command Centre daily. All of them bloodshot as if to impersonate the owl. They stood unwaveringly to serve their countrymen and women from Sunday to Sunday. They had anxieties but decided that they will be defined by HOPE rather than FEAR.
19. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has assessed our Covid-19 Response Plan efforts and has commended us for the fantastic results we all see today. I believe we are ready for the Second Wave.
20. Covid-19 in human is a novel situation for the world at large. In fact, as the President and many others in the world of medicine have said, it is probably the biggest and worst virus (public health crisis) since the Spanish Flu of 1918, more than a century ago. Today, as the WHO reports, we have more 36 million cases confirmed and just above a million deaths. And in South Africa, we have more 687 000 cases confirmed and less than 20 000 deaths. These are relatively low numbers by regional and global standards.
21 Gauteng, more than any other province, as data and surveys show, has done exceptionally well in terms of our messaging, mobilisation, prevention, education, implementation, coordination, leadership, infrastructure, human capital. PPE, clinical work and innovation: against a very difficult terrain and a complex invisible enemy. Even our donations mobilisation work has garnered more than R300 million worth of materials aimed at helping in the fight against Covid-19 in four months. These came from donors within the country and abroad, including sister countries who showed a deep sense of solidarity with South Africa.
22. The implementation of the Covid-19 Response Plan is quite a complex task because it is a risk adjustable strategy. In other words, we must plan and respond as we go along. The planning is informed by a scientific modelling approach which follows the trends and the data: and the decision-makers must adjust responses as the pandemic changes in terms of infection rates. Doing this with limited resources. for the first time against a novel virus, without a vaccine, is quite a great achievement by Gauteng Health. It is not easy, and it is not perfect either but: we are doing it as Team Gauteng Health, as Team GPG because: our only mission is to save lives!
23. The blight brought about by allegations of PPE procurement corruption should not subtract from the great work and sacrifice of our many dedicated staff, many of whom have served us for decades diligently. And at the same time, we should not sink into the narrative that everything done on Covid-19 or PPE is corrupt. We should not also believe without critical assessment, the narrative that all black or small business is corrupt. It is government policy to support small and black business ethically.
24. As a government committed to an ethical and capable developmental state, we should act as we did against allegations of corruption: do not hide or turn a blind eye, investigate them and save the public purse, livelihoods and lives!
25. Let us fight corruption vociferously but; let us not forget to acknowledge the resilient spirit of our frontline workers. Our real national heroes!
26. I wish to say it unequivocally: well done Gauteng Health, well done Team GPG! Had we not executed our Covid-19 Response Plan with courage, agility and scientific rigour, we would be sitting with another headline: ANC-led government has killed hundreds of thousands of people due to lack of planning or capacity
THE SIU REPORT — LIKE A SMOKING GUN IN A MOVIE OF SMOKE AND MIRRORS
27. The SIU report makes incorrect and non-factual findings about my role as Executive Authority. It is unclear whether the report is final, and to this end I have written to the Premier to explain to him that in fact and in law, I will be exercising my rights in law to review the findings in a court of law to set them aside.
28.1 feel strongly that the SIU report has done the following:
a. Ignored all other affidavits, including mine and chose to rely on one affidavit.
b. Makes no reference to the information, facts and documentary evidence presented by me and my office.
c. Confuses the roles of an Executive Authority and the Accounting Officer and thereby undermines the principle of the separation accountability.
d. Makes no connection between evidence and findings. The biggest evidence being that, I did not interfere in Covid-19 PPE procurement and did not steal people's money.
e. Uses innuendos in a manner that gives an impression that they are engaged in political speech rather than the search for truth and facts.
f. Relies on untested evidence which is then used to make insinuations and arrive at erroneous findings.
g. Relies on wrong sections of the PFMA to make inaccurate and unprecedented findings which may undermine proper governance itself.
h. Imposes decisions and powers on me that I have nothing to do with, even though evidence and prescripts point to a different reality.
i. Engages in an exercise of mandate overreach by attempting to go beyond the search for criminality to make commentary about my performance, without even referencing the contract I signed with the Premier.
29. It is clear to me that the SIU is either under extreme pressure from the legitimate public outcry against corruption and the need to ensure accountability or it is deliberately engaged in politics for ends that are yet to be established. Our law enforcement agencies must never substitute principle for populism and certainly must never abandon the age-old principle: 'fiat Justitia ruat caelum' — Let justice be done even though the heavens may fall. Elementary errors cannot be justified.
30.1 will not ventilate further the arguments — arguments of which will rely on the very crucial facts ignored by the SIU — because I need to exercise restraint and follow the letter and spirit of the law to get a fair and judicious outcome.
31. However, at this stage, I will say this, it is extremely unfair for certain media outlets, the SIU and all those engaged in peddling falsehoods to suggest or imply that I failed to exercise oversight on Covid-19 PPE procurement. I started the investigation. I instructed the Head of Department to ask for an investigation as early as 17 April 2020, barely four weeks into the National State of Disaster, ahead of all other provinces.
32.1 must pursue the option of a legal review the set aside these SIU findings because after this, I still must face family, mentors, comrades and friends and account once more.
33.1 wish to thank the People of Gauteng, the ANC and the Premier for offering me the opportunity to serve as a public representative for the first time in my life. It came as a surprise to me that I would later be asked to lead the biggest regional-based department of health in the SADC region, Gauteng Health. For those who may not know, it is indeed an honour and privilege to have served such a huge institution.
34. I also wish to thank my office staff: a team of young, creative, passionate, agile and highly capable comrades who kept me awake most of the time and made me walk with a spring under my feet. Some of these young people, left their secure full-time jobs to take up a precarious insecure job, just because they believed in the idea that Gauteng Health can turn - around and the health outcomes can improve in our lifetime.
35. The frontline staff. The heartbeat of Gauteng Health. The Gauteng Healthcare Workers: from the security guard right up to the Professor. I wish to thank you endlessly for the way in which you received me, our message and leadership. Kindly continue the good work. I have seen their eyes and their bare souls. They gave it their all inside the eye of the storm. Their exhaustion notwithstanding, they fight till the end like the real soldiers that they are. Here I also mean the fallen heroes too. We thank them dearly for their undying commitment to the idea of saving lives. May their families and friends be comforted by the successes we continue to register against the pandemic.
36. The Executive Management of Gauteng Health, HoDs of all departments and senior managers at provincial and local government level; siyabonga kakhulu! May you please continue the good work. Do not tire or be discouraged. Draw strength from the knowledge that you have won the fight over a novel virus!
37. Siyabonga to everybody who supported and believed in us. Even those who opposed us, we thank them for doing their jobs so well that we could not rest but try to do better all the time. We need opposing views to make progress in society.
38.1 also want to wish the Acting MEC, Mr Jacob Mamabolo well as he continues serving the people of Gauteng in the portfolio of Health.
39. As indicated, I have already instructed my lawyers to apply to set aside the findings of the SIU Report.
40.1 remain a loyal member of the ANC and will keep serving the people of Gauteng as a Member of the Provincial Legislature. I will continue to volunteer in the frontlines of our healthcare services.
41. In conclusion, I wish to quote former President Mbeki on the occasion of the farewell speech to President Nelson Mandela in the National Assembly on 26 March 1999 when he said these evergreen words:
"I have looked at the faces of some of those who were my comrades, who turned their eyes away from me because somewhere in their mortal being, there lingered the remnants of a sense of shame, always and forever whispering softly - no to treachery! a thing in the shadows, present at every dawn, repeating, repeating, repeating - I am Conscience to whom you have denied a home."
42. If at all we have made mistakes or an error of judgement in the 14 months tenure, it will not be because we sought to let the people of Gauteng and our organisation the ANC down but because; we tried to do something to pursue the mandate of the People and the ANC.
Let us continue to build a 'patient-centred, clinician-led and stakeholder driven with community responsibility' Gauteng Health. Let grow South Africa together.
Issued by Bongani Masuku via Twitter, 9 October 2020