Health’s Attempt At Out Of Court Settlement Fails

Karen de Kock, MPL

DA Northern Cape: Provincial Spokesperson of Health

The Democratic Alliance finds it highly questionable that amidst the start of the court case between Bestor CC, trading as Gestetner Naledi, and the Northern Cape Department of Health yesterday, the Health Department did an about turn by attempting to reach an out of court settlement with Bestor CC.

The DA has it on good authority that the Health Department yesterday offered Bestor CC a R5 million out of court settlement. After the offer was declined, the department lifted its stakes to a R7 million out of court settlement, but that too was declined by Bestor CC.

Bestor CC is suing the Health Department for millions following the improper cancellation of its contract to supply and maintain fax and copier services to health facilities across the province. The legal tryst dates as far back as January 2010, when 148 fax and copiers machines across the province were disabled due to the dispute between the department and Bestor CC, trading as Gestetner Naledi.

The department claims that it experienced service problems in terms of the maintenance of fax and copier machines by Bestor CC and that the contract expired, as such providing grounds to enter into a new contract with Quipsell, trading as Gestetner Bloemfontein and Copperleaf trading as Gestetner Welkom. The companies that form part of Gestetner Free State, were exposed in the Sunday Times last year for winning a R15 million photocopier contract, five times more expensive than competing bids, seeing hundreds of thousands of rands paid to senior municipal officers at Matjhabeng municipality before and after the tender was awarded.

Meanwhile, Bestor CC claims only to have received a letter from the department stating that “they have received nothing but bad service” and that the new three year contracts signed by Quipsell and Copperleaf were signed on the 1 October 2009 while his was terminated on the 11 November 2009. The contract included clauses pertaining to the hiring out and maintenance of fax and copier machines. Bestor CC claims that the department had no right to do this as the equipment belonged to him and no proper tender processes were followed.

The DA finds it strange that after defending its position for over two years, the department has suddenly backtracked to indirectly concede a level of responsibility for the termination of Bestor CC’s contract by attempting to make an out of court settlement. It seems, however, that it is a case of too little too late. Now, instead of the taxpayer having to cough up R7 million, we can most likely to expect a loss of double that amount.

The DA will closely monitor the outcome of this case. We previously called on the Auditor General, Public Protector and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts to further investigate this matter in as far back as 2010.

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