By Isak Fritz MPL, DA Northern Cape Provincial Spokesperson of Health:
The DA wants to know whether senior officials from the Northern Cape Health Department are finally going to be held accountable for millions of rands worth of legal fees incurred due to improper contract management.
This comes after judgment was delivered last week in part two of the Bestor CC court saga, whereby the Health Department was found liable for damages and costs, as a result of the improper termination of a maintenance contract for fax and copy machines.
The maintenance contract, entered into in March 2007 by then senior manager, Ms Lindiwe Nyathi Mokotoso, who was the Acting Head of Department at the time, was terminated by then Chief Executive Officer of the department, Dr Dion Theys, in November 2009 by way of a letter. Theys conceded in court proceedings that the department could not have terminated the maintenance agreement on the grounds stated.
Bestor CC is now claiming an amount of R33 million from the department. This includes damages suffered, interest accrued on the damages, as well as R3,2 million in costs for legal fees incurred by the plaintiff. The letter dealing with the quantum is believed to have been delivered to the department this week. The department has 30 days to respond on how they intend paying the plaintiff, failing which the matter will be presented in the motion court.
In the first of the three cases that Bestor CC instituted against the department, they successfully sued the Health Department for R710 000 for failing to return 148 fax and copier machines to the company.
The third part of the legal saga is set to go to court in May this year and sees Bestor CC claiming over R7,2 million from the department for malicious damage of property.
The DA is of the view that not only is poor contract management by the Health Department to blame, but so too the acquisition of poor legal advice by the department. If the department had settled out of court when the claims were first instituted against them, they could have spared over R15 million worth of interest accrued, not to mention the additional legal fees incurred by them. Good sense however failed them and they underestimated Bestor CC’s persistence and the wrath of the law.
The DA has today written to Health MEC, Mac Jack, reiterating our call to institute an internal investigation into the “fax and copygate scandal”, including probing officials involved and legal advice sought by the department.
Aside from the monies owed to Bestor CC, the DA also wants to know what the department has already paid, and what it owes to the private legal team from Kimberley and Pretoria which has been representing them in the ongoing saga. If Bestor CC paid R3,2 million on legal fees, what then is the extent of the bill that the department must foot?
In as far back as 2010, the DA referred the matter then dubbed the “fax and copygate scandal” to the Auditor General, the Public Protector and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts for further investigation. We also voiced our concerns that the then pending court cases would cost the taxpayer millions. Disturbingly, we were ignored and now the taxpayer has to foot the growing bill for the department’s incompetence.
The DA believes that responsible senior managers and officials within the health department must be held accountable for wasting millions of rands on legal fees that could rather have been spent on procuring emergency vehicles and appointing additional health professionals.
The DA will continue to follow this matter with keen interest. We will not rest until all our questions pertaining to this gross mismanagement of departmental funds have been properly answered.