By Marcus Low and Anso Thom
Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has asked treasury to investigate the procurement of ambulance services from Buthelezi EMS, a controversial private ambulance company that has been awarded large contracts in the Free State and North West.
Spotlight this week published two articles on alleged overcharging and tender irregularities involving Buthelezi EMS and the health department in the North West as part of our Health4Sale series of investigative articles. Next week we will be turning the spotlight on Buthelezi EMS in the Free State.
Motsoaledi last night told Spotlight that he wrote to the Minister of Finance to request that the Chief Procurement Officer at National Treasury investigates the procurement of services from both Buthelezi EMS and the Gupta-linked Mediosa (also known as Cureva) in both the Free State and North West.
Motsoaledi stressed that the treasury investigation is specifically into the procurement processes and suspected corruption. He also confirmed that the treasury investigation has already started.
Not adding value
In terms of medical need, Motsoaledi said that there is no debate at all and that Buthelezi EMS and Mediosa are not adding value and that they are in fact causing more problems. He also said that it is not national policy to use private service providers for emergency medical services.
“On my side as health there is nothing to investigate in terms of whether it is serving the health needs etc,” he said. “It is very clear, as clear as daylight, that we do not need this type of service.”
A new tender for outsourced private ambulances in the Free State was advertised in October 2017. Spotlight however understands that the award of that tender has been delayed and that Buthelezi EMS continues to be paid on a month-to-month basis.
Motsoaledi told Spotlight that he is in daily contact with Free State MEC for Health Butana Komphela about the situation. “I told him it is wrong for them to privatise ambulance services. They must run them on their own.”
“The plan from my side is that treasury after this investigation must make a clear ruling that the procurement of private ambulance services should not happen,” he said.
No Section 100 intervention
Motsoaledi indicated that a Section 100 intervention whereby the Provincial Departments of Health in Free State and North West would be placed under national administration is not currently being considered. He explained that under section 100 the political leaders in the province stays in place and that national assumes responsibility without authority. He referred to his experience when the Limpopo Department of Health was under Section 100 administration. In that case four provincial heads of department that various National Ministers believed should be removed were not removed because only the Premier of the province had the authority to remove them.
“In Limpopo we were only able to stabilise the finances because of treasury, but the human resources we could not touch because that authority does not lie with us,” he said.
The Head of the North West Department of Health Thabo Lekalakala, implicated in Spotlight’s 2-part investigation into emergency medical services in the province, was suspended yesterday by the embattled North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo. Previously Mahumapelo had refused to heed Motsoaledi’s call to suspend him, placing him on special leave.
Read more in this series:
Note: While Spotlight is published by SECTION27 and the Treatment Action Campaign, its editors have full editorial independence – independence that the editors guard jealously. Spotlight is a member of the South African Press Council.