Limpopo Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba has confirmed that an aeromedical service which was recently awarded a lucrative three year tender in the province is yet to get airborne adding that she has requested provincial treasury to conduct an investigation.
Daily Maverick and Spotlight reported last week that the Limpopo health department, which has a track record of dodgy aeromedical contracts, had awarded the new tender to a joint venture including Buthelezi EMS (BEMS), a private emergency medical services company which is under investigation by the Special Investigating Unit, the Hawks and National Treasury.
Ramathuba’s spokesperson Thilivhali Muavha said in a statement that the MEC had “noted the media reports which allege irregularity in the awarding of the Aeromedical Services tender by the department.” He said the MEC had met with her “department Executive Management and the leadership of EMS to get the full briefing on the matter”.
“The MEC takes in serious light these allegations. As a result she has requested the Provincial Treasury to conduct an independent and a thorough investigation into the entire process leading to the awarding of the tender in question. The tender in question has just been awarded and the service provider is yet to render the service,” Muavha confirmed.
Muavha said the MEC requested the public allow the investigations “to unfold so that it can shed light into the allegations and also guide on the subsequent action since there is no proof of wrong doing currently”.
“Our commitment to clean governance is unwavering. If this investigation can reveal any wrong doing, we will not hesitate to act,” Ramathuba said.
Daily Maverick and Spotlight previously sent the Limpopo Health Department a list of questions on the tender most of which remain unanswered.
BEMS and its joint venture partner FIM Aviation have so far been unable to provide an aeromedical service in terms of the new tender – either leaving patients in the province stranded or requiring the Limpopo Department of Health to make use of other private sector providers based in Gauteng. The cost of using Gauteng based aeromedical services is much greater than would be the case with a Limpopo-based provider since helicopters have to fly from and back to Gauteng.
The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) last week confirmed to the Daily Maverick and Spotlight that they have not inspected and certified a BEMS/FIM Aviation base in the province nor have they as yet received a request to conduct such an inspection. Bases for aeromedical services have to comply with a strict set of regulations regarding things like safe storage of medicines and oxygen and disposal of medical waste. FIM Aviation is only certified to provide an aeromedical service from its base in Midrand, Gauteng.
It remains unclear how the BEMS/FIM Aviation joint venture was awarded the Limpopo tender without the required SACAA certification in place.