AG’s findings on procurement of PPEs not shocking – NEHAWU

Union says pandemic has introduced a new breed of tenderprenuers: covidpreneurs

NEHAWU not surprised not shocked by the outcomes of the Auditor-General on the procurement of PPEs

2 September 2020

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] is not surprised nor shocked by the outcomes of the Auditor-General, Kimi Makwetu, on the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment [PPEs] for frontline workers and other government workers.

The Auditor-General revealed earlier today that both national and provincial departments of health and education have paid up to five times more than they should have for PPEs. Furthermore, the AG reported that these departments did not stick to the prices prescribed by National Treasury and in many cases paid more than five times the Treasury’s recommended prices.

The office of the AG is still auditing procurement processes but currently finding irregularities in relation to suppliers not having valid tax certificates, tender process irregularities, conflict of interest and the awarding of contracts in the health sector to companies with no previous history of supplying PPEs amongst others.

The outbreak of the coronavirus has introduced a new breed of tenderprenuers called Covidpreneurs who rushed to establish companies when the pandemic broke out in the country to loot state resources meant to protect workers. Our members and workers have been complaining about poor quality of PPEs which increases the danger of them contracting the virus.

NEHAWU has always been at the forefront of highlighting the rampant scourge of corruption in the healthcare sector, way before the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country. NEHAWU as a union organising in the health sector has always been exposing corruption especially in supply management, procurement, servicing of medical equipment, human resources and corrupt activities associated with outsourcing. However, this is not only about Covidpreneurs lining their pockets with ill-gotten gains but about frontline workers who are getting infected on a daily basis.

As NEHAWU, we agree with the World Health Organization [WHO] Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that corrupt practices around medical safety gear for COVID-19 health workers is tantamount to murder. Out of the 240 frontline workers reported to have lost their lives as of the 4th August 2020 a total of 169 are NEHAWU members who account for 83% of the total number.

The national union is losing members because of the corruption in government departments tasked with protecting workers. Our already understaffed healthcare system is losing more soldiers to confront the invisible enemy on a daily basis. Families are losing breadwinners because of the insatiable demand for money by Covidpreneurs. The report of the AG underscores our long held view that the corruption associated with the procurement of PPEs is much deeper than what is currently reported. NEHAWU reiterates its call for the centralisation of the procurement of PPEs as the current decentralised and fragmented approach has led to corrupt tendencies finding a leeway to access funds dedicated to procuring PPEs for frontline workers.

NEHAWU calls for harsh punitive measures to be meted against those found to have contributed to looting of funds meant to procure PPEs and those who sold government substandard medical safety gear. In November 2019 the Auditor General revealed that irregular expenditure for the 2019/2020 financial year has increased by over R10 billion to R62.60 billion from the R 52 billion reported in the 2017/2018 financial year. However, up to today Treasury has not taken full responsibility nor condemned this abuse of public funds including ensuring that those responsible are made to account. The national union is going to pick a fight with Treasury and will demand that they inform the public how it is implementing the recommendations of the Auditor General.

Once again, we want to reiterate our call to government to stop feeding us empty slogans and rid itself of corrupt individuals. The President and Treasury must show stern leadership in ending corruption. NEHAWU is forging ahead with its National Day of Action to highlight the lack of PPEs for frontline workers and workers in general including calling for harsh punishment for Covidpreneurs and government officials who are complicit in the PPEs corruption.

Issued by Khaya Xaba, NEHAWU National Spokesperson, 3 September 2020