MoH BLOWS P668M ON COVID-19 TENDERS
• Procurements still dogged by controversy • MoH was given over P1bn for COVID-19 • Balance stands at P510million
The Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) has spent slightly over half a billion pula in COVID-19 procurements most of which are marred by controversy, the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Edwin Dikoloti, has said.
Presenting his budget proposals to the Committee of Supply in Parliament recently, Minister Dikoloti said the health ministry was allocated money from the COVID-19 Relief Fund and had a supplementary budget approved by Parliament in September 2020 for use in combating the pandemic.
“An amount of P178, 431,853.00 was availed to my ministry as a disbursement from the COVID -19 Relief Fund to cover quarantine costs, wages for temporary employees, laboratory commodities, personal protective equipment and contact tracing expenses,” he said.
As at January 2021, expenditure from the Relief Fund stood at P164, 961,377.00 with a balance of P13, 464,476 still in the account. Dr Dikoloti said during the 2020 mid-year Parliamentary session, MoHW requested a supplementary budget from the finance ministry to augment its capacity to withstand the financial burden occasioned by the marauding virus which has now overstretched the country’s healthcare system.
At the time of approving the request, finance minister Dr Thapelo Matsheka noted that the Relief Fund was depleted and the health ministry was running out of cash, and so the health ministry was bailed out with P1 billion.
Minister Dikoloti continued: “As at 28th February 2021, an amount of P502, 571,654.00 was already expended, leaving an unspent balance of P497, 428,346.00. Part of this will be spent in March.”
In summary, an inclusive sum of P667, 533,031.00 was expended, leaving a total of P510,892,822.00. These figures are back-of-the-envelope calculations by The Business Weekly & Review adding expenditures and balances from the Relief Fund and the supplementary funds presented to Parliament by the minister.
Dikoloti noted that they have been procuring from an existing network of contactors “due to the need to rapidly procure commodities.” He continued: “My ministry, effective February 2020, leveraged on an existing framework of contracts to procure COVID-19 commodities. This approach was unavoidable, given the financial and time constraints within which these commodities had to be made available.”
The minister noted a concern about timely deliveries, hence “competitive bidding procedures have been and are being conducted, where possible/applicable," he said. Even so, this has not stemmed controversy around COVID-19 procurements that have been dogged by allegations of corruption.
Consequently, the ministry has resolved to conduct frequent audits of COVID-19 procurements. “So far, two audits have been undertaken (one) in June and (another in) November 2020,” the minister said. “Most importantly, administrative action, including monitoring, is being taken to ensure compliance with procurement, as well as financial instructions and procedures.” Interestingly though, the audits are yet to be availed to the public.