Health dept. must account for “fax and copygate” payments

By Harold McGluwa MPL, DA Northern Cape Provincial Chairperson:

The DA welcomes the eventual payment made by the Northern Cape Health Department to Bestor CC, which will now stop the Sherriff of the Court from confiscating and selling property that it attached in order to cover an outstanding judgment debt owed by the department.

It is, however, a shame that the department first had to be threatened, and risk losing ambulances and oxygen machines to the Sherriff, before they were willing to assume responsibility for a court order instructing them to pay Bestor CC an amount of R710 000, including interest and costs.

This forms the first of a three part saga whereby 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 back to January 2010, when 148 fax and copiers machines across the province were disabled due to a dispute between the department and Bestor CC. At the time, the department claimed that it experienced service problems in terms of the maintenance of fax and copier machines by Bestor CC and that the contract had expired, as such providing grounds for it to enter into a new contract with Quipsell.

The DA calls on the MEC of Health, Mac Jack, to institute an internal investigation into the “fax and copygate scandal”, specifically with reference to payments made to Quipcell, who is believed to have been liquidated two years ago. It is becoming clear that “mistakes” were made by the department in terms of the management of the contract for fax and copier services and now payments for the same services are being duplicated. The matter cannot be left unattended and someone must be held accountable for potentially costing the taxpayer millions.

Bestor CC has two more cases pending against the department. They are currently awaiting the start of a trial set for September, whereby the company is claiming over R15 million in damages suffered as a result of the health department’s failure to return fax and copy machines to the company. The third case, which has yet to appear on the roll of the High Court, further sees Bestor CC claiming over R7,2 million in damages for payments not received for repairs and maintenance of fax and copy machines.

In as far back as 2010, the DA referred the matter, which we dubbed the “fax and copygate scandal” to the Auditor General, the Public Protector and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts for further investigation. At the time, our calls were ignored. We can only hope that MEC Jack now treats this scandal with the seriousness that it deserves.