/ 18 December 2009

Gauteng fights on against expensive tender

Controversial consultancy firm 3P will not be returning to work for Gauteng’s health department any time soon — despite winning its court case against the province.

Provincial Health Minister Qedani Mahlangu announced this week that she will appeal against the South Gauteng High Court’s ruling of last week, upholding 3P’s multi­million-rand contract with Mahlangu’s department to deliver management services.

Mahlangu’s spokesperson, Simon Zwane, said this week that the court had been notified that ”up until the final ruling, when the appeal is settled, the contract will not be enforced”.

”There were no special functions that [3P] was performing. Some of the work they were doing, managers should have been doing themselves.”

The province would appeal against the high court ruling because: ”The effect of the decision is that public resources … allocated for medicines, to employ more health professionals, including nurses and doctors, and to provide patients with food will have to be diverted to pay consultants. This cannot be acceptable.”

If the department loses the appeal, it will cost taxpayers a further R273-million over three years to pay out 3P. The M&G reported earlier this year that included in this amount was R7-million for a beach volleyball event and a R20-million expenditure review. The department has already paid 3P more than R300-million since 2007.

The contract was signed during the tenure of Mahlangu’s predecessor, Brian Hlongwa, at a time when Gauteng’s hospitals lacked money for food, medicines and electricity. Mahlangu announced in August that she would be cancelling the contract.

Hlongwa has had a friendly relationship with 3P’s managing director Richard Payne, who acted on his behalf when he bought a house in Bryanston, Johannesburg.

In a setback for Gauteng’s attempts to disentangle itself from 3P high court Judge Colin Lamont ruled last week that the initial contract between the parties for two years, as well as an automatic extension, were ”valid and binding” and that there were no administrative irregularities in the signing of the contract.